WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal a tax on government contractors, achieving a rare moment of bipartisan agreement to pass a bill proponents argue will create jobs.
The bill to repeal a not-yet-imposed 3 percent withholding tax passed 405-16. The measure was among the least controversial elements of President Barack Obama’s jobs bill, although Obama called for delay of the tax while Republicans backed a full repeal. After very little wrangling, just a few Democrats opposed the measure, and the White House said it supports the bill.
The vote capped a week of Republican efforts to promote the party’s alternatives to the White House jobs proposals, some of which are polling well with the public. At a news conference, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he hoped the bipartisanship would extend to a longer list of bills that have passed the House but not been taken up in the Senate.
“Many of these bills passed the House with bipartisan support, 15 common-sense bills that will help get our economy moving again,” Boehner said.
GOP leaders branded the bills the “Forgotten 15,” part of a ramped-up effort to highlight the House Republicans’ plan for creating jobs – and point the finger at Senate Democrats for the gridlock in Congress. Polls show the Republicans have struggled to communicate their vision to battle unemployment.
In a New York Times/CBS poll released this week, 71 percent of people surveyed said the party does not have a clear plan for creating jobs.
The 15 bills spotlighted by Republicans largely deal with blocking or curbing federal regulations. One would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, and others would curb the agency’s role in regulating coal ash and the cement industry. One would restrict the federal role in creating clean water rules.
Republicans argue the regulations hamper industry and stall growth. Democrats, for the most part, defend the regulations as necessary for workers’ safety or to protect clean air and water.
It’s unclear precisely what effect a repeal of the 3 percent tax on contractors would have on the economy. Repeal supporters did not offer an estimate for job creation but cited industry surveys indicating that companies view it as a potential impediment to hiring.
The tax was passed in a 2005 bill and was intended to force tax dodgers to pay up. But it faced opposition and Congress has delayed it since. Backers of the bill argued that repealing the tax would eliminate uncertainty hanging over contractors.