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Bipartisan Buy-in on Final Stimulus Bill Could Hinge on Jobs

Lawmakers continued Thursday to nail down the details of the economic stimulus bill in a push toward a final vote. Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty examine the bill's effectiveness and react to news of Judd Gregg's withdrawal from the Cabinet.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, Sen. Gregg's withdrawal came as House and Senate leaders tried today to herd the stimulus bill toward final passage. At the same time, they faced complaints from both sides of the aisle.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Democratic leaders hope to get the bill to President Obama by Monday, so they worked to nail down details and set up final votes tomorrow for Saturday.

    Overall, the compromise measure would cost $789 billion: 64 percent, just over $500 billion, would go towards spending programs, the rest, 36 percent, or about $280 billion, would be tax cuts.

    Republicans complained again that's too much spending and not nearly enough in tax cuts. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader: We haven't seen all the details of the deal between House and Senate Democrats, but some of the early reports suggest this bill has only gotten worse.

    The president has asked for 40 percent in tax cuts; the bill falls short of that. But congressional Democrats did make sure it contains billions in questionable, non-stimulative projects. And the most highly touted tax cut in the original proposal now translates into $7.70 a week for middle-class workers.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The Democrats' number-two in the Senate, Dick Durbin, said McConnell's argument didn't hold water.

    SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), Illinois: Why did the amount of tax cuts for families go from $500 to $400? Well, it was because the Republican senators said, "We want to bring down the cost," and that was one of the ways we did it.

    It's completely inconsistent. Their arguments are completely inconsistent. And I think the American people know it. They want Congress to come together and find solutions. They want partnership, not partisanship. They want us to stop squabbling and start working together.

    That's what we're trying to do, even today, and it's hard. It's difficult. We're trying to find the votes to make this happen. It's essential that we do.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Not all Democrats were entirely satisfied. Some in the House objected to cutting proposed aid to states and schools by nearly half to $54 billion in the latest bill. But in the end, they said, they're ready to vote yes.

    REP. YVETTE CLARKE (D), New York: Everybody has a wish list. I don't know when you were a kid if you believed in Santa Claus, but I put a lot of faith in the fact that my list would go in and I would get everything on my list. Well, oftentimes, that didn't happen. But at the end of the day, I was grateful for what I had, and it made me a stronger person for it.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The issue of jobs was another flashpoint. Democrats and Republicans sparred over whether this bill will save or create 3.5 million jobs, as President Obama says.

    REP. MIKE PENCE (R), Indiana: We're all committed to passing legislation that will jump-start this economy. Republicans simply believe that the bill that is moving toward the floor will not stimulate more jobs; it'll simply stimulate more government and more debt.

    The overwhelming majority of the spending in this bill represents a wish list of longstanding liberal spending priorities that will have little to do with creating jobs.

    REP. JOHN SARBANES (D), Maryland: This is going to create a lot of jobs. It's going to save jobs directly, but it's going to create jobs. Infrastructure projects in there that are ready to go, that's going to create jobs. Investing in new energy technology, that's going to create jobs. Keeping the demand up through some of these tax cuts, that's going to mean that more businesses are going to stay in operation. That's going to save jobs.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    President Obama also focused on jobs in Peoria, Illinois, home of the construction equipment giant Caterpillar. The company recently announced it's cutting more than 20,000 employees.

    BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: When a company as good, and successful, and efficient, and lean and mean as Caterpillar is cutting back production and shedding jobs, that means we're not building up this country. It means we're not building new homes and offices or rebuilding crumbling schools and failing infrastructure.

    In short, it means we're standing still. And in this new global economy, standing still is the surest way to end up falling behind. Standing still is not an option. It's not who we are; it's not who we have to be.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The president's visit to Caterpillar came as the Labor Department reported today new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, but they remain near a 26-year high.