Republicans Block Bill To Tax Firms That Export Jobs

Democrats are trying to leave Washington by striking a note on jobs and the economy. Toward that end, they brought up a Senate bill Tuesday to tax companies that send jobs overseas and reward those that bring them back; Republicans blocked it.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The upcoming election is the clear subtext to everything Congress does in these final days before hitting the campaign trail. Today, Senate Republicans blocked a bill aimed at punishing companies for sending jobs overseas. The GOP accused Democrats of trying to bring up the legislation simply to score points with voters.

NPR's David Welna has the story.

DAVID WELNA: Democrats are confident Americans don't like the fact that U.S. companies can defer paying taxes on the profits they make aboard and can actually get tax breaks for sending jobs to other countries. On the Senate floor, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow urged her colleagues to abolish the kinds of tax incentives that benefited refrigerator-maker Electrolux. They closed down a Michigan plant a few years ago then moved production to Mexico.

Senator DEBBIE STABENOW (Democrat, Michigan): We have a tax code that would allow Electrolux to be able to write off the business expenses to take those 2,700 jobs down to Mexico. This legislation stops that.

WELNA: But Senate Republicans dismissed the bill as an election season stunt. Their leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of just pretending to be concerned about American workers.

Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): They want to make a good last impression with a bill they know has no chance of passing, in which they have no interest in passing. So this is about as pure a political exercise as you can get. And in my view, it's an insult to the millions of Americans who want us to focus on jobs.

WELNA: McConnell said Congress should instead be using the final days of the session to extend the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the highest income levels.

And Arizona Republican Jon Kyl defended U.S. firms that move jobs offshore.

Senator JON KYL (Republican, Arizona): The bill wrongly assumes that all foreign expansion stems from greed and that foreign expansion only hurts American workers.

WELNA: Majority Leader Harry Reid cast the debate as a question of whose side Republicans are really on.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): So far we've seen little to indicate that our friends on the other side of the aisle have any interest in protecting American jobs. Instead, we've seen them fight with great enthusiasm to keep corporate tax loopholes as wide open as possible.

WELNA: The vote to bring up the bill was 53 to 45, seven votes short of the 60 it needed to advance. Not one Republican voted in favor of letting the bill come up, nor did four business-friendly Democrats and one independent. The debate on punishing firms that send U.S. jobs abroad now moves on to the campaign trail.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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