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Bill would aid businesses, vets

| Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Monday to temporarily set aside its partisan standoff over President Obama's jobs plan and move toward giving a modest economic spark to two potent interest groups: veterans and businesses.

In a 94-1 roll call, senators voted to start debating a measure repealing a requirement that federal, state and many local governments withhold 3 percent of their payments to contractors. That bill has been lobbied by a wide swath of industry groups large and small and has no significant opposition.

By the time the Senate approves the legislation -- perhaps later this week -- Democrats plan to add language backed by both parties offering tax breaks to companies that hire veterans and providing vets with employment counseling and other job-hunting services.

The one-sided vote signaled that barring an unexpected twist, the Senate was likely to send the overall measure to the House, which returns from a recess next week.

The tax credits, up to $9,600 for companies hiring disabled veterans who have been jobless at least six months, would represent the first -- though tiny -- piece of Obama's $447 billion jobs proposal to be approved by Congress, assuming Senate and then House passage.

Not coincidentally, the measure was beginning to move toward approval just ahead of Veterans Day celebrations on Friday, when lawmakers stream home for speeches and parades. And even as the two sides seemed ready to cooperate, they exchanged partisan slings over lawmakers' refusal so far to approve the rest of the president's jobs proposal.

"There's no good reason to oppose this bill, not one," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden as he promoted his proposed aid for veterans. "Our veterans did their jobs. It's time for Congress to do theirs."

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