Frist upset over Democrat filibuster of JOBS bill

By Julie Fann
star staff
jfann@starhq.com

  
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Wednesday he is upset that Democrats filibustered a corporate tax bill that would reduce taxes for American manufacturers and resolve a trade dispute with Europe.
   Republicans lost an attempt to dodge Democrats struggles to reopen debate on proposed revisions to the rules governing overtime pay for white collar workers. Republicans needed 60 votes to block unrelated items from the bill but fell 9 short in a 51-47 Senate vote.
   "Democrats filibustered yet another bill for election year reasons, and it puts me in a real bind because it's important legislation ... They've got amendments that aren't germane or relevant that they want to offer," Frist said during a teleconference.
   The JOBS Act, sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bob Thomas, R-Calif., seeks to provide tax relief for manufacturers, simplify international tax provisions, and repeal the FSC Repeal and Extraterritorial Income Exclusion Act (ETI Act). The European Union on March 1 began to impose sanctions on U.S. products as a result of a World Trade Organization ruling that the ETI regime was an illegal export subsidy.
   Democrats agree that lawmakers should provide tax cuts for manufacturers as proposed by the Senate package, but they say amendments for discouraging outsourcing of federal contracts and for overtime pay are key to creating jobs for American workers.
   However, Frist said the bill is too important and timely to postpone further. Democrats and Republicans have been debating the legislation since March 4.
   "Tennessee exports have risen 26 percent, and in the European Union, where all of this applies, we're the second largest trading partner. Sanctions are in place. Right now, $177 million in exports is on the sanctions list. There is a real sense of urgency. I'm doing my best as majority leader, and it's not a bill to be playing politics with," Frist said.
   In response to criticism that the new Medicare legislation will contribute to the deterioration of the Medicare program, Frist said insolvency of the program isn't due to recent legislation but due to a large aging population and soaring costs in the private and public sector.
   Responding to one reporter's question about reports that the Bush Administration withheld figures for the cost of prescription drugs, Frist said, "Democrats are unable to attack the fundamental policy in this bill, that is, getting prescription drugs to seniors."
   Frist said he is looking forward to Sunday, when he will attend the Food City 500 NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He said his presence will not be intended to garner votes from NASCAR dads, a demographic group, like soccer moms, that some pollsters believe could swing the 2004 election.
   "Those who attend NASCAR tend to rely on hard work, conservative values that are consistent with values we have in the Republican party," he said.