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Negotiations Continue on Senate Stimulus Plan

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he expected a full Senate vote on the measure later Thursday and expected that it would pass.

“We hope to have the vote today,” Reid said, according to Reuters. “Do we have the votes? We believe we do. We believe we can find two Republicans of good will.”

Republicans and some Democrats have expressed reservations about the growing price tag of the package, which had ballooned to more than $900 billion.

The New York Times reported that centrist lawmakers from both parties are working on a last-minute plan to strip billions of dollars from the bill. The plan, led Senators Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Susan Collins, R- Maine, would pare between $50 billion to $200 billion from the package by trimming spending plans across a wide swath of programs.

“America is already staring at a $1 trillion deficit. The bill before us, in its current form, will cost, with interest, $1.3 trillion,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues Wednesday, according to news agencies.

A litany of proposed changes to the measure has traversed the Senate floor since debate began this week. Late Wednesday, GOP lawmakers successfully pushed through an added tax credit for homebuyers to the bill. The measure, which will cost around $18.5 billion, will provide tax credits of up to $15,000 for new home buyers. The provision is the biggest measure to date aimed at relieving the crippled housing industry.

“If we don’t fix housing first, it doesn’t matter what else we fix,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., who sponsored the amendment, reported Bloomberg News.

In another revision to the bill late Wednesday, lawmakers voted to change language in the bill requiring steel, iron and other materials used for stimulus projects be made in the United States.

The new language states that any “Buy American” provisions would be “applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements.”

A proposal by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona to strip the language completely from the bill was rejected.

In an op-ed piece in Thursday’s Washington Post, President Obama argued that as each day passes without his stimulus package, Americans lose more jobs, savings and homes.

“This recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse,” Mr. Obama wrote.

Republican efforts to further trim the bill failed Wednesday, including a proposal by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to eliminate all of the bill’s spending and replace it with a series of tax cuts. It was defeated by a 61-36 vote.

The bill has grown over the past week, with $11 billion in tax benefits for new car buyers and $6.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health were tacked on by the Senate.

Despite efforts by President Obama to rally bipartisan support for the measure, not a single Republican voted in favor of the package when it passed the House of Representatives last week — leading Republicans in the Senate to push for further changes.

Mr. Obama has set a Feb. 16 deadline for a final stimulus plan to reach his desk.

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