WASHINGTON Job-creating legislation taking shape in the U.S. Congress could carry a price tag of $75 billion to $200 billion with much of that funded by leftover bank-bailout money, House Democrats said on Tuesday.
The rough estimate by those crafting the legislation indicated that it likely will cost much less than the $787 billion economic stimulus package passed in February, even if it does not factor in up to $100 billion that might be spent on extended safety-net programs like jobless benefits.
That would square with modest steps to create jobs outlined by President Barack Obama, who has said he does not want those efforts to add significantly to the deficit, which was a record $1.4 trillion last year.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, "100 billion, 150 billion, 75 billion -- those are all figures that are being talked about, depending on what the component parts are."
Representative Peter DeFazio, who heads a transportation subcommittee, put the range between $75 billion and $200 billion.
That figure does not include the cost of extending jobless benefits, "because that would make a pretty puny jobs package," DeFazio said.
The package may include money for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects that aim to put workers back on the job by April.
The White House is looking at $50 billion for such projects, but House Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar said the final package will contain more than that -- including an extension of ongoing programs that otherwise would grind to a halt.
"We'll have a more robust package," he told Reuters.
Hoyer said the transportation spending and other elements of the jobs package, could be funded with leftover money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program created last year to rescue unstable financial institutions.
New legislation will be needed to redirect TARP funds, which is opposed by Republicans who want to end the program entirely.
TARP money will not be used to pay for extending jobless benefits due to expire at the end of the year, because they qualify as emergency spending and thus do not need to be offset with tax hikes or spending cuts elsewhere.
House Democrats had hoped to pass their jobs bill by the end of the year, but that could slip to January, Hoyer said.
(Editing by Chris Wilson)