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In Other News, Senate Debates Stimulus Plan as Pittsburgh Heralds Super Bowl Win

February 2, 2009 at 6:15 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: In the economy news today, the Senate opened debate on its version of the stimulus package. It totaled nearly $900 billion and was expected to grow.

The House version failed to get any Republican votes last week. And Senate Republican Leader McConnell warned, the more the Senate bill costs, the more Republicans it will lose.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Senate minority leader: We’ve been throwing figures around like it was paper money. We’re already looking, before we even do this, at over a trillion-dollar deficit for this year. And we all agree that we need to do something, but I don’t think we should just completely act like the amount is irrelevant.

JIM LEHRER: McConnell said Republicans want larger tax cuts and more focus on helping homeowners by cutting mortgage rates.

At the White House, President Obama made a new pitch for bipartisan backing. He spoke as he met with Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, the Republican vice chair of the National Governors Association.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There’s still some differences between Democrats and Republicans on the Hill, between the White House and some of the products that’s been discussed on the Hill. But what we can’t do is let very modest differences get in the way of the overall package moving forward swiftly.

JIM LEHRER: Some Democrats have also criticized parts of the plan, and the president of the Dallas Federal Reserve weighed in today, as well. Richard Fisher condemned the buy-America provision that limits stimulus spending to goods made in the U.S. He said, “Protectionism is the crack cocaine of economics. It may provide a high, but it’s addictive, and it leads to economic death.”

The government’s financial rescue program may grow beyond its current cost of $700 billion. That word came from the president in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. Mr. Obama said, “We can expect that we’re going to have to do more to shore up the financial system.”

At the same time, the Federal Reserve reported the rescue effort has failed so far to encourage bank lending. Nearly 60 percent to 80 percent of banks in a Fed survey said, instead, they have tightened their lending standards.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 64 points to close at 7,936. The Nasdaq rose 18 points to close at 1,494, as technology stocks rallied.

And there were more job cuts. Macy’s department stores announced it’s eliminating 7,000 jobs, 4 percent of its workforce.

Also, in other news, much of Kentucky remained under a state of emergency days after an ice storm. The National Guard stepped in over the weekend to clear away fallen trees. But several hundred thousand homes and businesses still had no electricity today. The governor urged President Obama to declare a major disaster to speed up federal help. He estimated clean-up costs already exceed $45 million.

This was a happy day in the city of Pittsburgh. Their Steelers won the Super Bowl yesterday in Tampa. They scored a last-minute touchdown to beat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. That win gave the Steelers a record six Super Bowl titles over the years. Pittsburgh will hold a victory parade tomorrow.