Facing criticism for partisan gridlock and low productivity, Congress saved a face a bit yesterday as the House passed a $58 billion adult education and job training bill.
The bill, which the House passed by a 415-6 vote, authorizes $58 billion in federal workforce development programs over six years. It would require job training programs to document how many people find jobs afterward. States would be required to establish four-year plans for workforce development, and states that do not meet performance targets for two years in a row would receive less funding allocated by governors.
The measure also eliminates a handful of job-training programs that had become inactive over the last few years.
The bill updates a Clinton-era job-training law that Congress last authorized in 1998 and has been due for renewal since 2003.
The House passed a predecessor version of the measure last year, and the Senate approved an amended version of it last month.
With yesterday's House approval, the bill heads to the desk of President Obama, who said he plans to sign it, noting that it will "help 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."
Joe Trauger, VP of human resources policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, commended the House's passage of the bill, calling it "a critical step toward closing the skills gap."
"Eighty percent of manufacturers are having moderate to serious difficulty finding the necessary skilled workers to maintain a 21st-century operation," Trauger said. "The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides much-needed streamlining of skills certification programs and directs the necessary funding to ensure manufacturers have the workforce they need to compete in a globally competitive environment."
Background & Backbiting
Politico provides this interesting bit of historical background on the bill:
The jobs training bill was first conceived by President Bill Clinton during his 1992 campaign as a sort of "G.I. Bill for workers" that would train the unemployed for new jobs. But the idea flopped around for years in Congress until, in the wake of welfare reform, Republicans passed their own iteration of Clinton's proposal during his second term. …
It passed in 1998 but flew under the radar while the Monica Lewinsky scandal dominated the year's news cycle. "If a bill becomes law in the midst of a presidential sex scandal, does anyone hear?" the Washington Post quipped at the time.
The House's passage of the bill elicited another round of partisan backbiting in Congress, with House Speaker John Boehner sending a letter to the editor of Politico defending the House's record and demanding an apology for a report last week accusing House Republicans and Senate Democrats of "dithering on the economy."
"The bottom line: 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.
A Bloomberg report details the current legislative gridlock and low productivity level, noting that Congress "is on pace to pass the fewest number of bills since at least the end of World War II" and that voters, venting their disapproval, recently gave Congress a record-low 7% approval rating in a Gallup poll.