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Spending, Tax Cuts in Stimulus Package Provoke Fierce Debate in Senate

Opponents of the stimulus package moving through the Senate are skeptical of the bill's increasing size, and of certain proposals they claim would not effectively boost the economy. Senators Jack Reed and John Thune debate the measure.

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    The president has been keeping public pressure on Congress all week.


    By now our economic crisis is well known. Our economy is shrinking. Unemployment rolls are growing.


    Today, Mr. Obama again urged quick action from the Senate on the stimulus plan.


    Now is the time for Washington to act with the same sense of urgency that Americans all across the country feel every single day. With the stakes this high, we cannot afford to get trapped in the same, old partisan gridlock.


    Good-paying American jobs, gone.


    While the president personally encouraged a bipartisan approach, senators continue to grapple with their plan, nearing $900 billion. Lawmakers on both sides are pushing a range of ideas, like more money for construction projects and a mortgage subsidy to help home buyers.

    The House version passed without a single Republican "yes" vote last week. It's being amended now to gain that needed support.

    Changes in the works from the House version include $70 billion to protect 24 million Americans from the alternative minimum tax; $9 billion — $3 billion more than in the House's original bill — for extending Internet growth in rural communities; only $5 billion, down from $20 billion, for health care infrastructure, like modernizing medical records; more tax cuts; and an effort to lower mortgage rates.

  • One other difference:

    how to expand health care coverage. The House bill would expand Medicaid to cover more unemployed adults. The Senate plan does not include that measure. Republicans signaled today that, despite the president's hopes and the Democrats' assurances, the end is not close at hand.

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.:

    So the process was wrong from the beginning.


    Instead, some Republican senators offered their own alternative, just half as large as the Democrats' bill, $445 billion. It would cut payroll and income taxes for a year, lower the corporate tax rate, and offer home buyers a new tax credit.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Senate minority leader: I think most of my members feel that you can get the job done with a lot less than a trillion-dollar spending package.


    This afternoon, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was tough on the Democrats' bill.


    We need to sober up here and take a look at what we're doing. Everybody agrees that there ought to be a stimulus package. The question is, how big? And what do we spend it on?

    The House bill is an embarrassment. The Senate bill on the floor is not markedly better. Our goal will be to pare it down and to target it right at the problem.


    Republicans also blocked the Democratic amendment today that would have added $25 billion in highway spending. Still, Senate Democrats say they hope to pass a bill by Friday in order to meet their promise to give the president a bill by mid-February.