* Rare bipartisan support for economic measure
* Disagreement remains on larger elements
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON, Oct 27 The Republican-led U.S.
House of Representatives on Thursday passed a minor element of
President Barack Obama's jobs bill as consensus remained
elusive on other efforts to boost the struggling economy.
With the unemployment rate stuck at 9 percent, Republicans
and Democrats have lined up behind sharply different
Obama has put forward a $447 billion package of government
spending and tax cuts for workers, while Republicans want to
roll back pollution controls and other regulations that they
say are preventing businesses from expanding.
With power divided in Washington, neither agenda is likely
to become law. But both will have a long afterlife in the 2012
presidential and congressional elections, as both parties seek
to convince voters that they have a better plan to create
Obama has touted his jobs plan in campaign-style rallies
across the country, even though Republicans have already
blocked it. Republicans, meanwhile, point out that the
Democratic-led Senate has refused to take up more than a dozen
bills that have passed the House.
Thursday's vote was a rare example of common ground as the
House voted 406 to 16 to eliminate a yet-to-be enacted law that
would withhold 3 percent of payments to government
Passed in 2006, the measure is meant to ensure that firms
that do business with the government pay their fair share of
Business groups say the law, due to take effect in January
2013, unfairly punishes honest contractors and would force them
to charge more to make up for the loss of cash flow and would
cost more than it would save.
The Democratic-controlled Senate blocked the measure last
week, but is expected to take it up again and pass it next
week. The White House has said it supports the measure.
However, the two sides disagree over how to cover the
bill's $11 billion cost.
By a largely party-line vote of 262 to 157, the House
passed a separate bill that would save $13 billion by
tightening eligibility for Medicaid, the government health
insurance program for the poor and reduce subsidies in Obama's
landmark health-care overhaul.
That element was included in a debt-reduction plan Obama
submitted last month, and the White House said it supports
Senate Democrats might try to find another way to cover the
cost. "We are still working out a path forward," said Adam
Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry