News reports say that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expects the House will soon consider the Senate-passed $15 billion jobs bill (H.R. 2847), known as the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, that passed the Senate by a 70-28 vote on Feb. 24. The bill passed by the Senate and presently before the House includes tax incentives for businesses to hire unemployed workers in 2010, an extension of federal aid for highway programs, an extension of a small business expensing tax break, and the establishment of a Build America Bonds program.

The tax incentives for hiring in the proposal presently before the House includes a new program that would exempt employers that hire unemployed workers from paying Social Security taxes on the new hires for the remainder of 2010. The proposal would also offer employers an additional $1,000 tax credit for any new hire who stays on the job for one year.

The HIRE Act significantly pared down the House’s original bill that it passed Dec. 16 by a narrow 217-212 vote. The original House bill was a much larger $150 billion package that also included six-month extensions of the emergency unemployment insurance benefits program and the COBRA subsidies to help those who have lost their jobs to continue their health insurance.

Short extensions of unemployment benefits (until April 5) and COBRA subsidies (for those involuntarily terminated between March 1 and March 31) were signed into law on March 2.

Even if the HIRE Act is enacted in its present form (and odds are that it will not be since 3 caucuses within the Democrats in the House are already on record that they have problems with the bill), it is expected to create a quarter of a million new jobs. That is not much when compared with the 8 million jobs lost in the US since 2007, but proponents are calling the HIRE Act a “good first step.”