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Facing tough re-election fight, US Sen. Mark Pryor backs legislation aimed at job creation

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor on Friday unveiled proposals to limit tax breaks for companies that move operations overseas and require publicly funded projects to use American-made steel and iron, touting a focus on jobs issues as he faces a tough re-election fight.

The two-term lawmaker from Arkansas detailed a package of bills, dubbed the "American-Made Strong" legislation, that he said would boost job creation in Arkansas and nationwide. The package includes a bill already introduced in the Senate and two other measures Pryor's office said will be filed next week.

"We have a real chance to bring a lot of jobs back into the U.S., and of course I believe a lot of those jobs will come back to Arkansas," Pryor said at a news conference at a steel plant at the Little Rock Port. "This is good for our workers, this is good for our companies and it's good for America. It's something I really hope my colleagues in Washington will help me do over the course of this year."

Pryor is sponsoring the legislation as he faces an increasingly expensive and nationally watched re-election bid against Republican nominee and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton.

Part of the package includes a bill the Senate voted earlier this week to begin debating that would prevent companies from deducting expenses related to moving operations to a foreign country. The bill would offer tax credits to companies that move operations to the U.S. from a foreign country.

PHOTO: Prospect plant manager Steve Belew, far left, points to parts of a bridge project as U.S. Sen. Mark pryor, D-Ark., watches at Lexicon Inc., steel plant in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, July 25, 2014. Pryor on Friday unveiled a package of bills he says are aimed at creating more jobs. (AP Photo)
Prospect plant manager Steve Belew, far left, points to parts of a bridge project as U.S. Sen. Mark pryor, D-Ark., watches at Lexicon Inc., steel plant in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, July 25, 2014. Pryor on Friday unveiled a package of bills he says are aimed at creating more jobs. (AP Photo)

Pryor is also sponsoring two other measures to be introduced next week. One includes a proposal to require all federal agencies to use American-made iron, steel, wood products, cement and manufactured goods in public buildings and public works projects. The measure would allow some waivers for agencies. The bill also would extend a bond program to help states and local governments pursue capital projects.

The other bill includes a proposal to create a voluntary, standardized "Made in America" labeling program for American-made goods, and a 25 percent federal income tax credit aimed at expanding technology companies.

The package faces hurdles in the Senate, where the top Republican has said the bill on limiting tax breaks is more about campaign rhetoric than creating jobs. Cotton's campaign also dismissed the package, criticizing Pryor for backing the federal health care law and a 2010 financial regulation overhaul it called "job-killing" measures.

"It's going to take more than putting stickers on products to create jobs in America," Cotton spokesman David Ray said in an email.

Pryor defended the package, saying it's part of a longtime focus on jobs issues and not campaign rhetoric.

"I've been focused on manufacturing for a long time, way before the election year ever rolled around," he said.

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PHOTO: Welders work on pieces of a bridge project at Lexicon Inc., steel plant in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, July 25, 2014. Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, who toured the facility Friday, is supporting legislation to limit tax breaks for companies that move operations overseas and to require most publicly financed projects to use American-made steel. (AP Photo)
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