House Passes Job-Training Bill, Clearing for Obama

Lawmakers criticized for a lack of productivity hailed an adult education and job training bill the U.S. House passed yesterday as evidence that Congress can get something done.

The bill, which the House cleared for President Barack Obama’s signature on a 415-6 vote, authorizes $58 billion over six years for federal workforce development programs. It eliminates 15 programs still on the books, though most had become dormant in recent years.

House lawmakers passed an earlier version of H.R. 803 last year. The Senate, after months of negotiations, passed an amended version in June.

The House vote came at an opportune time for Republicans, who hold the chamber’s majority and have endured criticism for refusing to schedule votes on immigration legislation, tax law changes or a replacement for the 2010 health-care law they’ve voted to repeal more than 50 times.

Obama said in a statement he plans to sign the job-training measure. The bill “helps ensure that our workers can earn the skills employers are looking for right now and that American businesses have the talent pool it takes to compete and win in our global economy,” he said.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, sent a scathing letter to the editor of Politico demanding an apology for a report in the media outlet that blamed House Republicans and Senate Democrats for combining to do almost nothing to improve the U.S. economy.

Idled Bills

“Anyone who thinks, says, or writes that the House of Representatives isn’t focused on jobs and the economy is lying, or simply not paying attention,” Boehner wrote.

Republicans say jobs bills they’ve passed are sitting idle in the Democratic-led Senate. Senate Democrats, in turn, say House Republicans refuse to take up bills that would pass the chamber because they might need Democratic votes to do so.

Congress is on pace to pass the fewest number of bills since at least the end of World War II. Voters, in turn, have shown their frustrations by giving lawmakers an approval rating of a record-low 7 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll.

The job-training measure was backed by business groups and labor unions. International Business Machines Corp., in a May 30 letter to lawmakers, said the bill would “enhance the competitiveness of workers and companies in the technology sector.”

“This is the way the process is supposed to work,” Boehner told reporters before the vote. “We’ve got 50 other jobs bills sitting over in the United States Senate. Maybe they’ll begin to work on another one.”

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