Senators debate stimulus after reported deal

February 7, 2009

WASHINGTON (CNN) — U.S. senators debated a massive economic-recovery package Friday evening after sources said a working coalition of Democrats and some Republicans had reached a compromise on the plan.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) and other senators taking part in negotations address the media Friday.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) and other senators taking part in negotations address the media Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hoped for a vote on the stimulus packaged, which is championed by President Barack Obama as a tonic for a badly wounded economy, either later Friday or Saturday. Sources on Capitol Hill later said they did not expect a vote until the weekend.

The movement came after days of closed-door meetings between moderate Democrats and Republicans, who felt the price on the House’s $800 billion-plus version of the package was too much.

Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska and one of the chief negotiators of the plan, said senators had trimmed the plan to $780 billion in tax cuts and spending on infrastructure, housing and other programs that would create or save jobs.

“We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows,” Nelson said as debate began. Video Watch CNN analysts discuss what they think the stimulus deal means »

According to several senators, the revised version of the plan axed money for school construction and nearly $90 million for fighting pandemic flu, among other things.

Remaining in the plan are tax incentives for small businesses, a one-year fix of the unpopular alternative-minimum tax and tax-relief for low- and middle-income families, said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was the most prominent Republican negotiator in the bipartisan talks.

“Our country faces a grave economic crisis and the American people want us to work together,” she said. “They don’t want to see us dividing along partisan lines on the most serious crisis facing our country.”

While Democrats appeared to believe they had enough Republican support to push the compromise plan through, most GOP members still were speaking against the plan, saying spending is not the answer to cure economic woes.

“This is not bipartisan,” said Sen. John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to Obama. “If this legislation is passed, it’ll be a very bad day for America.”

Earlier Friday, Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich dropped out of the negotiations.

Voinovich concluded that his “philosophical” differences with the approach of Republican negotiators was too great, a Voinovich aide said. The senator said he could no longer support efforts at compromise or the final bill, the aide said.

Voinovich’s departure left four Republican senators involved in the negotiations: Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mel Martinez of Florida and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Democratic leaders will need at least two or three GOP votes to pass the bill.

When they expected a vote Friday night, Democratic sources said ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has been absent from the Senate since collapsing on Inauguration Day, would be present to help get the 60 votes needed to move the plan forward.

Democratic negotiators had wrestled Friday over billions of dollars in potential cuts to education spending as senators trimmed what was a $900 billion economic recovery plan.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois confirmed Democrats were in a tough debate over cutting what they saw as core programs. He singled out education as one of the largest areas of cuts — and one of the hardest for Democrats to swallow.

“It’s a painful area for all of us, as Democrats, to make these cuts in education assistance,” he said.

There are “substantial” proposed cuts to a $79 billion fund created to help states deal with the economic crisis by giving them more money for schools, Durbin said.

Putting more pressure on senators was news Friday that employers slashed another 598,000 jobs off U.S. payrolls in January, taking the unemployment rate up to 7.6 percent. See where new jobs might be created »

“This is not some abstract debate. It is an urgent and growing crisis,” President Obama said at a White House ceremony unveiling a new economic advisory board. “If we drag our feet and fail to act, this crisis will turn into a catastrophe.”

The frenzy of meetings on Capitol Hill shifted into yet a higher and more powerful gear.

White House budget director Peter Orszag left a morning meeting in Reid’s office but would not comment on negotiations. Senators who were meeting in their office buildings Thursday were negotiating directly with Reid just outside the chamber doors. Video Watch what Americans think of Obama’s stimulus plan »

The House passed an $819 billion version of the stimulus plan last week, but no Republican voted in favor of it. Learn what the bill includes »

The Senate has 56 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with them. There are 41 Republicans. One Senate seat from Minnesota remains open pending the outcome of an election recount challenge.

3 Responses to “Senators debate stimulus after reported deal”

  1. […] Mike Licht wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt WASHINGTON (CNN) — U.S. senators debated a massive economic-recovery package Friday evening after sources said a working coalition of Democrats and some Republicans had reached a compromise on the plan. […]

  2. Ted said

    No to “stimulus” bill. Here’s why:
    Since Obama’s earnest drive to convince the nation to weaken its economic strength through redistribution as well as weaken its national defense, has confirmed the very threats to our Republic’s survival that the Constitution was designed to avert, it no longer is sustainable for the United States Supreme Court and Military Joint Chiefs to refrain from exercising WHAT IS THEIR ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY TO DEFEND THE NATION FROM UNLAWFUL USURPATION. The questions of Obama’s Kenyan birth and his father’s Kenyan/British citizenship (admitted on his own website) have been conflated by his sustained unwillingnes to supply his long form birth certificate now under seal, and compounded by his internet posting of a discredited ‘after-the-fact’ short form ‘certificate’. In the absence of these issues being acknowledged and addessed, IT IS MANIFEST THAT OBAMA REMAINS INELIGIBLE TO BE PRESIDENT UNDER ARTICLE 2 OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. Being a 14th Amendment ‘citizen’ is not sufficient. A ‘President’ MUST BE an Article 2 ‘natural born citizen’ AS DEFINED BY THE FRAMERS’ INTENT.

  3. llabesab said

    We will now add one more item to the biggest “LIES” on Earth:

    1. I gave at the office.
    2. The check is in the mail.
    3. I will never use Turbo Tax again.
    4 I read and understood the 800 page, 8 1/2″ thick
    Stimulus Bill before I voted for it.

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