Senate Dems will have just enough votes to pass stimulus

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 7, 2009 

WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to take a final vote on its $827 billion economic stimulus package at noon Tuesday, as angry Republicans joined pleased Democrats in extended debate on the plan Saturday.

Senators will vote on cutting off that debate Monday evening. Sixty votes are needed, and all 56 Democrats are expected to be joined by two independents and Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins of Maine, who helped draft the compromise Friday.

GOP members complained the package is not truly bipartisan, since only a handful of Republicans were consulted. And in the end, only two had a hand in the final package.

"No action is not what any of my Republican colleagues are advocating. But most of us are deeply skeptical that this will work," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "And that level of skepticism leads us to believe that this course of action should not be chosen"

President Barack Obama hailed the plan. "In the midst of our greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people were hoping that Congress would begin to confront the great challenges we face," he said in his weekly radio address.

He said its scale and scope are right, "and the time for action is now." A push from the White House helped break the deadlocked negotiations Friday.

The Senate plan is about $8 billion than the one passed by the House last month. While many provisions of the same, there are key differences that House and Senate negotiators will try to iron out next week.

But House Republican Leader John Boehner warned GOP lawmakers don't like what they see.

"The proposed Senate bill appears to be focused overwhelmingly on slow-moving and wasteful Washington spending, rather than immediate job creation and fast-acting tax relief," he said. "This is not what the American people want, nor is it what the president called for at the start of the process."

The two Houses will have some significant differences to reconcile. The Senate has $21 billion to subsidize health care coverage for unemployed people under the COBRA plan, while the House includes $40 billion.

The House includes $79 billion for an education stabilization fund to states; the Senate has about half that much. The Senate has passed amendments that provide a tax break for most new car buyers as well as a $15,000 housing tax credit, or 10 percent of the purchase price.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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