Sens. Snowe, Collins Continue Rightward Lurch With Vote Against Jobs Bill

October 12, 2011 3:00 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Sen. Susan Collins

Continuing to undermine their reputation as thoughtful moderates, Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted to kill the American Jobs Act — and offered a series of misleading and economically illiterate justifications for doing so. 

In its report on their vote, the Lewiston Sun Journal noted the stakes for Maine: "Economists predicted the plan would add 1.9 million jobs and increase domestic product by 2 percent. ... [T]he administration claimed the bill would result in cutting the payroll tax in half for 30,000 Maine companies, would provide $138.7 million in infrastructure investment and would prevent the layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers. The administration estimated that the transportation and school infrastructure investment could result in more than 5,000 local jobs. In addition, Maine households with median incomes of about $48,000 each would receive a tax cut of about $1,490." And, as the Sun Journal explained, both the job creation proposals and proposed tax increases on the wealthy to fund them enjoy strong public support.

So why would Snowe and Collins oppose a bill that would create millions of jobs, cut taxes for Maine companies and families, keep teachers, firefighters and police officers on the job, and improve local infrastructure and schools?

Collins issued a statement insisting the legislation was "designed not to help struggling Americans, but instead to score political points" — a strange thing to say about a bill that would create millions of jobs — and adding: "This isn't legislating; it is political theater." It seems unlikely that Maine's unemployed would agree that creating millions of jobs is "political theater." Collins also said, "We need to listen to the American people and work to reach consensus on a package of bills that will help employers create and preserve jobs." That sounds nice enough, but if she really wanted to "listen to the American people" she would have voted for the bill, the components of which are quite popular.

In explaining her vote against the jobs bill, Collins stipulated that "The bill considered today has some elements that could garner overwhelming bipartisan support such as a payroll tax deduction for employees and employers. It would also provide tax incentives to encourage the hiring of our veterans, another good idea."

So, what, exactly, did Collins dislike about the bill? She didn't actually say. Here's her statement, condensed down to only the criticisms of the American Jobs Act:

Yet, rather than working together to reach consensus on a plan that could truly make a difference, the Senate is once again voting on legislation designed not to help struggling Americans, but instead to score political points. This isn't legislating; it is political theater. Americans have had enough. [...]

[W]e are once again faced with a "take it or leave it" proposition. 

"When it became clear that the President's original plan couldn't even generate sufficient Democratic support, it was changed. Now, to win the votes of some Senators, the new bill maintains sweetheart tax breaks for the five biggest oil and gas companies - even though the President proposed eliminating them. I have voted repeatedly to eliminate these tax breaks.

That's it. The closest Collins came to criticizing the actual content of the legislation is her complaint that it doesn't include something she wants to do. She failed to offer a single substantive reason for her vote against a bill that would create millions of jobs. Talk about putting political theater ahead of legislating!

At least Snowe actually criticized the content of the legislation she voted against — though her criticisms were largely nonsense. Here's Snowe:

We should have had the opportunity to improve this bill that regrettably threatened to actually cost jobs, by raising taxes on small businesses. Four out of five taxpayers hit by the administration's proposed surtax are business owners. Forty-one percent of all business income reported on individual returns will be affected by the surtax.

The tax increase contained in the legislation Snowe voted against was a surcharge on adjusted gross income in excess of a million dollars per year. Snowe's sleight of hand aside, the surcharge would have affected almost no Mainers. One-tenth of one percent of them, to be precise. Meanwhile, the bill would have cut taxes for every individual and company in Maine that pays payroll taxes — which is almost all of them. 

And that was Snowe's only criticism of the content of the bill — the rest of her five-paragraph statement was devoted to advocating her own proposals. So Snowe voted against cutting taxes for almost all of her constituents because she cared more about keeping taxes low for the one-tenth of one percent of them who earn more than a million dollars a year.

And what about Snowe's preferred approach? As usual, she called for comprehensive "tax reform" without producing such a comprehensive reform package. And, as usual, she went on about "regulatory reform," insisting, "Removing needless red tape and inefficient bureaucratic barriers to job creation is one sure fire way to promote economic growth nationwide." That may please the Tea Party extremists Snowe seems to fear so much, but it won't do much to help the economy, as the Associated Press made clear today. The AP noted that rather than excessive regulation, "Most economists believe there is a simpler explanation: Companies aren't hiring because there isn't enough consumer demand."

Speaking of consumer demand: Snowe didn't. In five paragraphs about job creation, Snowe didn't so much as hint at the concept of demand. Snowe used to recognize that "one of the key components of any stimulus package has to be spurring consumer investment" — but that was back when there was a Republican president, and a poor economy would hurt her political party. Now she pretends that businesses -- which are sitting on mountains of money but not hiring because there isn't enough demand for their goods and services — would hire more workers if only we cut their taxes and gutted regulations, while completely ignoring the roll demand plays in the economy.

It is, of course, impossible to know exactly what Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are thinking. But we do know that if they wanted to thwart economic recovery in order to weaken a Democratic president heading into an election year, all while taking advantage of crisis-level unemployment to push unrelated ideological goals, they'd do exactly what they're doing right now.