Economic Outlook: Across the aisle

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International
Anthony Hall
Anthony Hall

Washington lawmakers who seem particularly contentious these days ignored lines drawn in the sand to approve a new jobs bill for the president's signature.

"I hope that on a series of future steps that we take to help small businesses get financing, to help improve our infrastructure around the country, to put people back to work, that we're going to see more progress on that front," said President Obama.


What with healthcare and financial reform measures mired in debate, the president must be wondering just how much his signature is going to be needed this year.

The jobs bill approved by the Senate Wednesday attracted 11 Republican votes and passed 68 to 29, and now heads the the president's desk. The signature added to it there will exempt employers from payroll taxes for hiring workers unemployed for a minimum of 60 days and provides $20 billion for road projects. In what could also prove tempting to Republicans, Senate Democrats have plans to extend about $30 billion in tax breaks to businesses, as a follow up measure, The New York Times reported.


Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who helped pen the jobs bill said, "the American people sent us a message in Massachusetts and elsewhere," referring to the filibuster-providing seat taken by Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who replaced the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Washington in a special election in January.

"It was focus on jobs, the economy, helping the middle class stretch its paycheck. Our answer today: We heard you," Schumer said.

While Washington can rally around jobs, if the bills are not too large, it remains to be seen who might reach across the aisle on regulatory reform. The bill presented to Senate Banking Committee members by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., this week, in anticipation of committee discussion starting Monday, is 1,336 pages of bipartisan potential with some issues already proven divisive in two-man negotiations between Dodd and Sens. Richard Shelby and Bob Corker, who helped Dodd shape the bill before their discussions hit impasses.

In Washington Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told members of the House Financial Services Committee the Fed's role in setting monetary policy and its role in supervising banks are intertwined: One task informs the other, he said.

Bernanke did not mince words as he pitched the Fed as the agency with expertise necessary to supervise large and small banks -- a pitch intended to counter Dodd's proposal to pull the Fed back from supervising smaller banks.


In market movement Thursday, Asian markets were mostly lower a day after the Bank of Japan gave the region a boost by electing to keep lending rates at 0.1 percent and double a loan program for banks begun in December.

After the one-day bump, the Nikkie 225 in Japan dropped 0.95 percent, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong dropped 0.25 percent. The Shanghai composite index in China dropped 0.14 percent, while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia rose 0.2 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 in Britain shed 0.44 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany slipped 0.07 percent. The CAC 40 in France fell 0.24 percent, while the pan-European DJ Stoxx 50 was off 0.02 percent.

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