American Jobs Act
The American Jobs Act (H. Doc. 112-53) and (H.R. 12) are bills
Bill (proposed law)
A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute....

 proposed by US President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 in a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress
Joint session of the United States Congress
Joint sessions of the United States Congress are the gatherings together of both houses of the United States Congress...

 on September 8, 2011. He said that it consists of a set of non-controversial proposals designed to get Americans back to work, and he repeatedly urged Congress to pass the bill "right away"; he also said that the bill would not add to the national deficit and would be fully paid for.


Since the start of the great recession, unemployment
Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

 and underemployment
Underemployment refers to an employment situation that is insufficient in some important way for the worker, relative to a standard. Examples include holding a part-time job despite desiring full-time work, and overqualification, where the employee has education, experience, or skills beyond the...

 levels in the U.S. have remained stubbornly high. Through the resulting "jobless recovery
Jobless recovery
A jobless recovery or jobless growth is an economic phenomon in which a macroeconomy experiences growth while maintaining or decreasing its level of employment...

," consumer confidence
Consumer confidence
Consumer confidence is an economic indicator which measures the degree of optimism that consumers feel about the overall state of the economy and their personal financial situation. How confident people feel about stability of their incomes determines their spending activity and therefore serves as...

 has remained shaky, raising the specter of a double dip recession.

In August 2011, the U.S. Congress agreed on raising the debt ceiling and a reduction in deficits within the next decade. The acrimonious debate leading to the passage of this bill made clear that some in the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 considered national default to be a viable political option. Following passage, Standard & Poor's
Standard & Poor's
Standard & Poor's is a United States-based financial services company. It is a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies that publishes financial research and analysis on stocks and bonds. It is well known for its stock-market indices, the US-based S&P 500, the Australian S&P/ASX 200, the Canadian...

 downgraded the United States top credit rating from AAA to AA+ citing various factors including the long term political struggle to raise the debt ceiling and a lack of credible plans to reduce federal spending and increase tax revenue. Economic data released in July and August 2011 came in worse than expected, and worldwide stock markets tumbled quickly raising the fear of a new recession. After Labor Day
Labor Day
Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.-History:...

, President Obama, in a major speech before a joint session of Congress
Joint session of the United States Congress
Joint sessions of the United States Congress are the gatherings together of both houses of the United States Congress...

, detailed a major new jobs package and urged the Congress to pass it without delay.

President's address to Congress

Obama's speech aired in the United States on 11 television networks during primetime, including ABC
American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

, Fox News Channel
Fox News Channel
Fox News Channel , often called Fox News, is a cable and satellite television news channel owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of News Corporation...

, Fox Business Network
Fox Business Network
Fox Business Network is an American cable news and satellite news television channel that began broadcasting on October 15, 2007. It is owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation...

MSNBC is a cable news channel based in the United States available in the US, Germany , South Africa, the Middle East and Canada...

, and CNBC
CNBC is a satellite and cable television business news channel in the U.S., owned and operated by NBCUniversal. The network and its international spinoffs cover business headlines and provide live coverage of financial markets. The combined reach of CNBC and its siblings is 390 million viewers...

. Nielsen Media Research
Nielsen Media Research
Nielsen Media Research is an American firm that measures media audiences, including television, radio, theatre films and newspapers...

 estimate that 31.4 million viewers watched the speech, 10 million less than the 2011 State of the Union Address
2011 State of the Union Address
The 2011 State of the Union Address was a speech given by President Barack Obama at 9 p.m. EST on January 25, 2011, in the chamber of the United States House of Representatives...

, but six million more than his March speech on Libya
2011 Libyan civil war
The 2011 Libyan civil war was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya, fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by protests in Benghazi beginning on 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security...

. The President's address was rescheduled to September 8 after his original request to deliver the speech on September 7th was rebuffed by Speaker of the House John Boehner
John Boehner
John Andrew Boehner is the 61st and current Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. A member of the Republican Party, he is the U.S. Representative from , serving since 1991...

, who cited a clash with a Republican Presidential debate already scheduled for the same time and stated that more time was required to secure the House for the President's visit. The President made his speech at 7:00pm Eastern, instead of the usual 9:00pm start for presidential addresses to joint sessions of Congress, so he would be finished before the first game of the National Football League season
2011 NFL season
The 2011 NFL season, the 92nd regular season of the National Football League, began on Thursday, September 8, 2011 with the Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers defeating the New Orleans Saints 42–34 at Lambeau Field and will end with Super Bowl XLVI, the league's championship game, on...

 between the New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are a professional American football team based in New Orleans, Louisiana. They are members of the South Division of the National Football Conference of the National Football League ....

 and the Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are an American football team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They are members of the North Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League . The Packers are the current NFL champions...

 at 8:30pm.

The Republicans declined to broadcast an official opposition response, as it is traditionally done after a presidential address to a joint session of Congress. This decision was criticized by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro Pelosi is the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives and served as the 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011...

 as being "disrespectful" to the president and the American people. However Boehner denied any of this. "This is not a State of the Union address
State of the Union Address
The State of the Union is an annual address presented by the President of the United States to the United States Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda and his national priorities.The practice arises...

. The American people shouldn't be forced to watch some politician they don't want to listen to. And frankly, most of them would rather watch a football game," he said, referencing the aforementioned Saints-Packers game. However, Congress members were still available to respond to Obama's speech individually. Boehner later released a statement after the speech saying that "the proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well."

Elements of the proposed bill

The White House provided a fact sheet which summarizes the key provisions of the $447 billion bill. Some of its elements include:
  1. Cutting and suspending $245 billion worth of payroll taxes for qualifying employers and 160 million medium to low income employees.
  2. Spending $62 billion for a Pathways Back to Work Program for expanding opportunities for low-income youth and adults.
    1. $49 billion - Extending unemployment benefits for up to 6 million long-term beneficiaries.
    2. $8 billion - Jobs tax credit for the long term unemployed.
    3. $5 billion - Pathways back to work fund.
  3. Spending $50 billion on both new & pre-existing infrastructure projects.
  4. Spending $35 billion in additional funding to protect the jobs of teachers, police officers, and firefighters
  5. Spending $30 billion to modernizing at least 35,000 public schools and community colleges.
  6. Spending $15 billion on a program that would hire construction workers to help rehabilitate and refurbishing hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes and businesses.
  7. Creating the National Infrastructure Bank (capitalized with $10 billion), originally proposed in 2007, to help fund infrastructure via private and public capital.
  8. Creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety, while expanding accessibility to high-speed wireless services.
  9. Creating additional regulations on businesses who discriminate against hiring those who are long-term unemployed.

In total the legislation includes $253 billion in tax credits (56.6%) and $194 billion in spending and extension of unemployment benefits (43.4%).

Legislative history

In the Senate, the bill was stalled by Majority leader Harry Reid
Harry Reid
Harry Mason Reid is the senior United States Senator from Nevada, serving since 1987. A member of the Democratic Party, he has been the Senate Majority Leader since January 2007, having previously served as Minority Leader and Minority and Majority Whip.Previously, Reid was a member of the U.S...

 on September 27, 2011 who said "I don’t think there’s anything more important for a jobs measure than China trade, and that’s what we’re going to work on next week," with emphasis on taking up more tenuous legislation which is less likely to draw political attention. On October 4, 2011, Minority Leader
Party leaders of the United States Senate
The Senate Majority and Minority Leaders are two United States Senators who are elected by the party conferences that hold the majority and the minority respectively. These leaders serve as the chief Senate spokespeople for their parties and manage and schedule the legislative and executive...

 Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell
Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Jr. is the senior United States Senator from Kentucky and the Republican Minority Leader.- Early life, education, and military service :...

 attempted to offer the Act as an amendment to the China trade bill, saying that while he disagreed with the bill's approach to job creation, it deserved to be voted on. On October 5, Reid announced a plan to pay for the American Jobs Act with a 5% surtax on incomes of more than $1 million a year.

In the House of Representatives, as a matter of procedure; on September 12, 2011 The Speaker pro tempore laid before the House a message from the President transmitting the legislative proposal, referred to committee and ordered it to be printed (H. Doc. 112-53). Officially H.R. 12, was introduced on Sept. 21, 2011, by Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.

On October 11, the bill was voted on in the Senate where it failed to garner the necessary sixty votes to proceed. In response Obama vowed to break the bill into several smaller derivative bills.

The first of these bills, was the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011, , which would have provided $30 billion in state aid to hire teachers and $5 billion for first responders. The bill was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez
Robert Menendez
Robert "Bob" Menendez is the junior United States Senator from New Jersey and a member of the Democratic Party. In January 2006, he was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jon Corzine, who resigned upon being elected Governor of New Jersey. Menendez was elected to his own full...

 on October 17, 2011 and failed in a 50-50 vote for cloture on October 20, 2011. In the failed motion to proceed to consider the legislation, 50 Democrats voted in favor of opening debate on the legislation and 47 Republican Senators, joined by 3 Democratic Senators (Joseph Lieberman, Ben Nelson
Ben Nelson
Earl Benjamin "Ben" Nelson is the senior U.S. Senator from Nebraska. He is a member of the Democratic Party and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000....

, and Mark Pryor
Mark Pryor
Mark Lunsford Pryor is the senior United States Senator from Arkansas, serving since 2003. He is a member of the Democratic Party and former Attorney General of Arkansas....

) voted no. The $35 billion bill providing funding to state governments for public school teachers, police and firefighters would've been paid for with a 0.5% tax on incomes in excess of $1 million annually, beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

The second of these bills, was the Rebuild America Jobs Act, , a bill to put workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America, would've spent $50 billion on transportation infrastructure projects and $10 billion to fund an "infrastructure bank." The bill was introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar
Amy Jean Klobuchar is the senior United States Senator from Minnesota. She is a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, an affiliate of the Democratic Party...

 on October 31, 2011 and failed in a 51-49 vote for cloture on November 3, 2011. In the failed motion to proceed to consider the legislation, 51 Democrats voted in favor of opening debate on the legislation and 47 Republicans Senators, joined by 2 Democratic Senators (Joseph Lieberman & Ben Nelson
Ben Nelson
Earl Benjamin "Ben" Nelson is the senior U.S. Senator from Nebraska. He is a member of the Democratic Party and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000....

) voted no. The $60 billion bill investing in roads, bridges and infrastructure, would have been paid with a 0.7% tax on Americans earning more than $1 million per year.

A third component is scheduled to receive a cloture vote, in the US Senate, on November 7, 2011. , a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the imposition of 3 percent withholding on certain payments made to vendors by government entities, was an element of the larger American Jobs Act and passed the US House of Representatives on a bipartisan 405-16 vote. Senate Democrats plan to attach an amendment to to include an additional element of the American Jobs Act, which would give businesses incentives to hire unemployed and disabled veterans. The "Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011" would be funded by "existing funding mechanisms" from the Department of Veteran Affairs, including adjusting the fee structure for Veterans Affairs Department home loans, as opposed to the tax on Americans making more than $1 million a year, which had been proposed with the prior Senate jobs bills. A prior version of the 3% withholding repeal proposed by Senate Republicans had failed in the Senate on a 57-43 cloture vote, as Senate Democrats opposed the Senate Republicans plan to fund the lost tax revenue via $30 billion in spending cuts. In the failed cloture vote 47 Senate Republicans were joined by 10 Senate Democrats in voting to open debate on the Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011, .

Related bill

On September 14, Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 Louie Gohmert
Louie Gohmert
Louis Buller Gohmert, Jr. is an American politician and current Republican U.S. Representative from Texas's 1st congressional district.-Life and career:...

 introduced his own "American Jobs Act of 2011" into the House as . The bill would repeal the corporate income tax.

Another related bill that was recently passed is the Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011
Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011
The Surface and Air Transportation Program Extension Act of 2011 became a United States law when President Barack Obama signed the Act on September 16, 2011 The Surface and Air Transportation Program Extension Act of 2011 became a United States law when President Barack Obama signed the Act on...

. The Surface and Air Transportation Program Extension Act of 2011 became a United States law when President Barack Obama signed the Act on September 16, 2011 (Public Law No. 112-30. The law extends taxes which fund federal highway expenditures through March and the Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S...

 through January. The extension of this act will, inturn, create many jobs for construction workers.

Making the case

Obama toured the country making appearances at various speaking events to promote his proposed legislation. He appeared before constituents of Eric Cantor
Eric Cantor
Eric Ivan Cantor is the U.S. Representative for Virginia's 7th congressional district, serving since 2001. A member of the Republican Party, he became House Majority Leader when the 112th Congress convened on January 3, 2011...

's congressional district to press the Congress to pass his bill immediately. On September 12, he gave a speech in the White House Rose Garden
White House Rose Garden
The White House Rose Garden is a garden bordering the Oval Office and the West Wing of the White House. The garden is approximately 125 feet long and 60 feet wide...

 in front of a group of teachers, police officers, construction workers and small-business owners in which he stated that "if Congress does not act, just about every family in America will pay more taxes next year. That would be a self-inflicted wound that our economy just cannot afford right now." In Speaker Boehner's home state of Ohio, Obama gave a speech described as "fiery" in a Columbus high school that led to the audience chanting: "Pass this bill!" In a campaign-style rally at North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University at Raleigh is a public, coeducational, extensive research university located in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States. Commonly known as NC State, the university is part of the University of North Carolina system and is a land, sea, and space grant institution...

, Obama told college students "Every single one of you can help make this bill a reality. … The time for hand-wringing is over. The time for moping around is over. We've got to kick off our bedroom slippers and put on our marching shoes." At a black-tie dinner for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
Congressional Hispanic Caucus
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus comprises 21 Democratic members of the United States Congress most of whom are of Hispanic origin. The Caucus is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics and Latinos in the United States and Puerto Rico...

, Obama pitched his jobs plan to Latino
The demonyms Latino and Latina , are defined in English language dictionaries as:* "a person of Latin-American descent."* "A Latin American."* "A person of Hispanic, especially Latin-American, descent, often one living in the United States."...

s. In anticipation of criticism that the legislation was motivated by the upcoming election, the President noted that the election is fourteen months away and that Americans do not have the luxury of waiting fourteen months for jobs to be created. In an October press conference, Obama responded to the suggestion from a reporter that his jobs tour was part of a political campaign, saying "The question is, will Congress do something? If Congress does something, then I can't run against a 'do nothing' Congress. If Congress does nothing, then it's not a matter of me running against them. I think the American people will run them out of town."

Republicans and conservatives

Republicans and conservative radio hosts were quick to label the American Jobs Act as "son of stimulus" after the controversial American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, abbreviated ARRA and commonly referred to as the Stimulus or The Recovery Act, is an economic stimulus package enacted by the 111th United States Congress in February 2009 and signed into law on February 17, 2009, by President Barack Obama.To...

. Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist and Obama appointee to the Economic Recovery Advisory Board
President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board
The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, originally the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, is a panel of non-governmental experts from business, labor, academia and elsewhere that President of the United States Barack Obama created on February 6, 2009. The board reports...

, put the price tag on the American Jobs Act at about $200,000 per job, which Republicans argue as the true cost for the proposed legislation. Conservative commentator Brian Darling
Brian Darling
Brian Darling is a senior fellow in government studies at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank based in Washington, D.C. Darling has been involved in U.S. politics since the early 1990s, in roles as a congressional aide, lobbyist and legal counsel...

criticized the act, comparing it with the stimulus, and stating that since the act is based on the same ideas it is unlikely to have a more positive outcome.

Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor indicated that it would be a tough bill to pass quickly: "Insisting that this body and the two sides here agree on everything is not a reasonable expectation." House Speaker Boehner said the president’s bill should be analyzed immediately by the Congressional Budget Office
Congressional Budget Office
The Congressional Budget Office is a federal agency within the legislative branch of the United States government that provides economic data to Congress....

for scoring before the administration and Congress pursue negotiations. Cantor confirmed to a reporter on October 3rd that the bill as a complete package was effectively "dead" and that only parts of the American Jobs Act would be passed. With Obama stating a willingness to consider a piecemeal approach on the legislation, Cantor said "At this point I think that Washington has become so dysfunctional that we've got to start focusing on the incremental progress we can make. Both sides want to do the big, bold things -- the problem is they look vastly different."


Many Democrats have "balked" at the bill, siding with the Republicans, especially those facing difficult re-elections in congressional districts where they are hesitant to support unpopular legislation. A majority of the Democrats support individual components of the bill, but are unwilling to commit to the bill in its entirety, despite the White House's disapproval of the weak showing of support. Some Democrats from core Democratic districts oppose the American Jobs Act because it gives more tax breaks, thus contributing more to the federal deficit, which has given Obama more responsibility to sell the plan first to the American public, as he has done on a very prominent, nationwide speaking tour.

Both moderate and progressive Democrats have expressed concerns about the bill. Joe Manchin, a more moderate-leaning Democrat, has openly voiced his opposition with the administration by arguing against the inclusion of too much spending, given by his remarks on September 29th, "The ugly part of that act is $450 billion of spending, after we've spent, spent, spent." On the other side, progressive Democrat Peter DeFazio, a more progressive-leaning Democrat from Oregon, argued against the inclusion of nearly $250 billion of tax breaks, saying "Half of it is tax cuts, and quite frankly tax cuts don't work."
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