WASHINGTON — The polarized US Senate closed ranks Monday to advance a small item in President Barack Obama’s jobs plan that lawmakers also aimed to use to help armed forces veterans struggling to find work.
By a lopsided 94-1 margin, Obama’s Democratic allies and Republicans voted to advance a bill to repeal a 2006 law requiring government agencies to withhold some payments to private contractors.
Obama’s Democratic allies and Republican foes rallied behind the bill in a rare show of bipartisan unity on the issue of creating jobs, the top issue on voters’ minds ahead of November 2012 elections.
Democrats planned to amend the measure to provide tax incentives for businesses that hire or help unemployed veterans before the Senate votes this week to send the overall legislation to the House of Representatives.
The altered bill was expected to pass both houses ahead of Friday’s Veterans Day holiday, and a time when soldiers returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have struggled to find work in the job-hungry US economy.
“There’s no good reason to oppose this bill. Not one. Our veterans did their jobs. It’s time for Congress to do theirs,” Obama said in remarks in the Rose Garden as he pleaded for help for returning former soldiers.
The House approved the contractor measure in late October.
The law, enacted with broad bipartisan support at a time when Washington’s reliance on contractors in war zones drew scrutiny and anger, requires agencies to withhold three percent of payments to contractors as a hedge against those who do not pay their taxes on time.
But supporters of a repeal, including the White House, said it unfairly punished the vast majority who play by the rules — and could stifle hiring by those businesses at a time when the US economy sags under high joblessness.