WASHINGTON — Democrats and Republicans rallied on a rare patch of common ground Wednesday and Congress approved legislation helping government contractors and unemployed veterans, finally giving President Barack Obama the chance to sign the first, tiny shred of his $447 billion jobs bill into law.
The House sent the bill to the White House by an overwhelming 422-0, six days after the Senate passed it 95-0.
The legislation creates tax breaks for companies hiring jobless veterans — a part of Obama's jobs plan — and beefs up vets' job-training and counseling programs.
It also repeals a 2006 law that would require the federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of their payments to contractors.
Obama's signature would let him and lawmakers claim credit for protecting jobs at a time when the public is clearly furious over the nation's unemployment rate, which has been stuck around 9 percent.
In a written statement from the White House, Obama congratulated both parties for approving the veterans' tax credits and prodded lawmakers to go further.
"This is a good first step, but it is only a step," he said. "Congress needs to pass the rest of my American Jobs Act so that we can create jobs and put money in the pockets of the middle class."
The president's jobs bill, introduced in September but mostly shunned by Congress, would continue reduced payroll taxes for workers and employers, extend unemployment insurance benefits and provide money to build roads, modernize schools and hire teachers, police and firefighters.