U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware

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A real bipartisan job creation plan

There is no question that America is in a jobs crisis. More than 14 million Americans are unemployed, millions more are underemployed and too many have just given up looking for work altogether.

Washington’s dysfunctional political process has not encouraged certainty among growing businesses, or confidence among the general public about the ability of policymakers to work together. Week after week, the Senate shoots down proposals from each party designed to create jobs, adding to a long line of fruitless efforts to grow the economy.

The gridlock may be rooted in the fundamental differences between our parties, but it’s been compounded by a focus on short-term political gain over the pursuit of a genuine bipartisan consensus. This has made real action on our jobs crisis nearly impossible.

But even with stark ideological differences and a divided government, there are policy proposals we can act on immediately to promote growth and get unemployed Americans back to work.

President Barack Obama and both parties in Congress this fall put forward plans for job creation, as has the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Every day, members of Congress introduce legislation aimed at jump-starting the economy.

Many of these ideas are ambitious and will take time to achieve. Many are simply non-starters for one side or the other. But many are non-controversial, bipartisan and would help boost the economy right away. We should act on them now.

As freshman senators from states hit hard by the recession, we believe Congress can’t afford to spend the next year spinning its wheels — scoring political points in a debate that is more about protecting political jobs in 2012 elections than getting the jobless back to work. We should unite behind policy ideas we all agree on and that would likely be signed into law if we stop letting politics get in the way.

Today we are introducing legislation that includes some of these ideas. Our bill would extend tax relief for small businesses — to help them purchase new equipment so they can grow and create jobs. It includes modernizing and improving the research and development tax credit; encouraging hiring of returning veterans and reforming burdensome regulations.

It will take steps toward boosting high-skilled legal immigration, so we can attract and retain talented individuals with extraordinary capacities, to create high-paying jobs in America. It will also protect our businesses against the illegal theft of intellectual property, with strict enforcement of laws already on the books.

Our plan borrows heavily from legislation introduced by both parties and in both chambers of Congress — Republicans in the House, and Democrats in the Senate. All the provisions have garnered bipartisan support in today’s political climate, and all would help encourage job creation today.

These shorter-term policy fixes clearly won’t be a substitute for the comprehensive economic reforms we need. Nor will they save critical entitlement programs for future generations, or fundamentally make the federal government more efficient. These types of changes will only be realized after a vigorous debate over the proper role of government in our lives and in the economy.

But as we engage in this broader conversation about our long-term future, we can still act on things we agree on.

The American people, particularly the 14 million unemployed, are looking for their elected officials to set aside their agendas and act now to reverse the trend of sluggish economy growth. We can give all Americans at least a little faith that, by working together, even Washington can do some things right.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) serves on the Budget Committee. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) serves on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

This op-ed appeared in POLITICO.

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