With the 2010 congressional elections just 251 days away and polls showing that nearly 60% of Americans feel the country is on the “wrong track,” this week could be a critical test for the Obama Administration and Congress.
First up: the Jobs for Main Street Act (H.R. 2847), which the Senate is expected to approve today. The $15 billion package provides a tax break for employers hiring unemployed workers in 2010 and extends the Highway Trust Fund and the authorization for surface transportation programs. While many of the provisions enjoy bipartisan support, many industry groups—including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)—believe that the bill falls short of its potential. It is worth noting, however, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is preparing a second jobs bill which likely will extend: (1) popular tax provisions, including the R&D tax credit, that expired on December 31, 2009; (2) unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers; and (3) Medicaid assistance to states. The Senate could take up the bill by the end of the week.
The other critical issue is health care reform. Although both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate approved different bills last year, compromise remains elusive. Tomorrow President Obama will host a bipartisan summit to discuss health care reform and champion his new proposal, which has been labeled by some as a “last-ditch effort” to get agreement and enact a law before the midterm elections.
The ultimate test, however, is convincing a wary American public that enactment of these policies will improve their lives. We will know on November 2 if the test was passed.