Other News: Senate Debates Stimulus, Obama Signs Child Health Care Bill
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, President Obama worked on streamlining the economic stimulus package to keep it moving. Senate Democrats acknowledged Monday they lack the 60 votes to get past Republican filibusters.
Republicans, like Jim DeMint of South Carolina, said today they can’t accept the cost, now topping $900 billion.
SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: This bill is so bad, one of the worst — probably the worst bills that has ever been introduced in the United States Congress, and you can’t fix it by tweaking around the edges. The best thing that could happen is President Obama to lead, to call a timeout that has been suggested, and get the leaders of the House and the Senate over to the White House.
JIM LEHRER: But the president said much of the criticism echoes the failed policies that brought on the crisis in the first place. He said Americans rejected those policies in the election.
And Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said downsizing the bill could be dangerous.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill.: Most of the economists say err on the side of providing enough water to put out the fire. Don’t put so little on it that you’ll have to revisit that conflagration tomorrow.
And if you follow the lead of some who want to cut back the size of this program substantially, every time they cut back the size of it, they will cut back the number of jobs that we will be creating in America.
JIM LEHRER: Several Senate moderates went to the White House today to talk to the president. They discussed ways to cut $50 billion from the bill. Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine said the bill should be thoroughly scrubbed of spending that won’t create jobs quickly.
Maine’s other Republican senator, Susan Collins, voiced hope for compromise.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: I have no doubt that the president is willing to negotiate in good faith, that he wants to have a bipartisan bill, that he recognizes that some of the provisions that were added in the House and some in the Senate, as well, do not really belong in the bill.
By the same token, the president made very clear that he wants a bill, that he wants it this week, and that he thinks it needs to be of sufficient size to do the job.
JIM LEHRER: Democratic leaders are pushing for a final vote by the end of the week.
On Wall Street today, weak earnings from Kraft, Disney, and others sent the stock market down again. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 121 points to close at 7,956. The Nasdaq fell 1 point to close at 1,515.
President Obama signed a bill today to expand SCHIP, federal health care coverage for uninsured children. The White House ceremony came shortly after the bill passed the House. It had already cleared the Senate. The measure expands the program to cover 4 million more children. It’s funded by increasing the federal tax on cigarettes to just over a dollar a pack.
In Iraq today, Prime Minister al-Maliki’s coalition appeared to be winning provincial elections. Projections showed his secular Shiite allies leading in 10 of 14 provinces after Saturday’s vote. There were claims of voter fraud across Anbar province, a heavily Sunni region. Maliki called for proof.
NOURI AL-MALIKI, prime minister, Iraq (through translator): Each observer or election official who sees a process of forgery should prove this forgery in a list, and it should be testified by people from the polling station in order to be a complaint.
But the allegation alone is not enough. He who claims forgery in an election should bring evidence to prove his claims within the official context of the electoral commission.
JIM LEHRER: As the vote-counting progressed, the number-two U.S. commander in Iraq warned Iran is still interfering there. Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin said there’s evidence that Shiite extremists continue to receive money, weapons and training from Iran.
New disclosures today showed baseball slugger Barry Bonds tested positive for steroids. In San Francisco, a federal judge unsealed hundreds of pages of court filings in the case. The homerun king is charged with lying to a grand jury when he said he never knowingly used drugs to boost his performance. His trial is set to begin on March 2.