Big Weirdo Posted February 7, 2009 Share Posted February 7, 2009 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-stimulus_07feb07,0,1770949.story WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama and Senate Democratic leaders, propelled by news of the biggest one-month job losses in 35 years, on Friday hammered out a deal that clears the way for Senate approval of a massive economic stimulus plan.Senators said the legislation, which is a cornerstone of Obama's efforts to revive the economy, would carry a price tag of about $820 billion under the compromise deal, though the final figure was unclear. The bill is expected to cost about the same as the $819 billion approved by the House and far lower than the bill as amended on the Senate floor, which had grown to more than $930 billion. The bill had stalled amid partisan differences, with most Republicans saying it carried unnecessary spending and not enough tax cuts. But over the course of several days, a small group of senators from both parties, working with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, negotiated the compromise, trimming the bill in hopes of winning support from a handful of moderate Republicans. Senate Democratic leaders said they believed they will have enough support to pass the legislation, though it was not clear when a vote would be held. Republicans may delay the vote until early next week, but there was little doubt about the outcome. "For the first time, there's light at the end of the tunnel," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), predicting that Congress would send the bill to the White House, as promised, by the end of next week. After approval, the Senate and House will have to work out their differences, then vote on a final version of the legislation before sending it to Obama for his signature. When the compromise was announced Friday evening to a closed meeting of Senate Democrats, it was greeted with applause, and Democrats emerged saying that the party had rallied behind it. The White House applauded as well. "On the day when we learned 3.6 million people have lost their jobs since this recession began, we are pleased the process is moving forward," said spokesman Robert Gibbs. Under the deal, the cost of the bill would be lowered by scaling back tax cuts in the legislation by $25 billion. In addition, lawmakers trimmed $85 billion in spending for items they believed did not belong in a stimulus package because they did not spur economic growth, such as $870 million for combating a pandemic flu. "We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows," said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a leader of the bipartisan group that worked out the compromise. However, Democrats said some of the areas trimmed were muscle not fat and hoped they might be restored in the final bill. Funding for school construction took a big hit, and aid to states was reportedly cut from $79 billion to $39 billion. "Not everybody is going to get every dollar they want, but it's still a very strong package," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "This package proves three words: 'Yes we can.' " Three GOP moderates — Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — quickly declared their support for the compromise. But two other GOP moderates — Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and George Voinovich of Ohio — said they would oppose it. Hoping to drive their vote total up to 61, Democrats are also counting on the vote of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is battling brain cancer and has not been in the Capitol since he had a seizure on Inauguration Day. He returned to Washington on Friday to be available to vote. Details of the compromise agreement were not immediately available, but it met the goal set by Obama and some moderate Republicans that the price tag end up in the neighborhood of $800 billion. There was great confusion, even among senators who wrote the bill, about the fate of amendments adopted on the Senate floor, including tax credits for people buying new cars and homes. If those are included, it could drive the cost over $800 billion. The $85 billion in tax cut savings included $5 billion by tightening eligibility for tax credits for workers and families with children, and a $9 billion savings from scaling back business tax breaks. The agreement was announced after days of frenzied, behind-the-scenes talks, involving close involvement by the Obama administration. Obama called Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada late Thursday night. Emanuel called him five times Friday morning and joined the negotiations in person in the afternoon. Friday's release of a dire unemployment report added to the urgency of Obama's and Reid's appeal that Congress move with speed. U.S. employers eliminated 598,000 jobs in January, the report said, the biggest one-month plunge since 1974. The unemployment rate is 7.6 percent. "These numbers demand action," said Obama. "It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work." The White House announced that Obama would campaign for the bill early next week in Indiana and Florida. The president will also hold his first prime-time news conference Monday, giving himself another platform to push for the legislation. Offering a sample of the way Obama will likely target skeptical lawmakers, aides to the president on Friday talked about the impact of his plan on specific states—aiming, by implication, at the lawmakers who represent them. Gibbs described the loss of nearly 600,000 jobs in January as "the equivalent of losing every job in the state of Maine." Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.