Tags: Congress | Reconsiders | Stimulus

Congress Reconsiders Stimulus

Wednesday, 23 January 2002 12:00 AM

"We had a good conversation this morning to start out this new year," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. "We talked about some of the things that we've been able to achieve together, through partnership - bipartisan, bicameral, with the president. We've pursued this war on terrorism, I think, in a way that - we've stood shoulder to shoulder."

But Congress goes back into session with partisan differences intact on a broad spectrum of domestic issues, among them the economic stimulus and a comprehensive national energy plan. Bush goes to Capitol Hill next week to deliver the State of the Union address with a preview of the 2003 federal budget.

"We talked a lot about the importance of economic stimulus, of energy, of prescription drug benefits, election reform," Senate plurality leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., told reporters after the meeting.

"We hope we can begin the year by addressing the question of economic stimulus in a way that will allow us to finish our work on that and move the economy ahead. There's a real opportunity to work together. A new year brings a new opportunity to start over."

The White House aggressively had courted moderate Democrats in the Senate in hopes they would pressure Daschle to bring the stimulus bill to a floor vote in December. GOP members had accused Daschle of blocking movement of the bill to the Senate floor.

The bill stalled amid a contentious debate over whether tax relief or expanded worker benefits was the best way to encourage economic recovery.

On Tuesday, Daschle sent a letter to Bush detailing an alternative proposal for a stimulus. "Let's immediately pass what we agree on, and keep working to find common ground in the areas where we still disagree," Daschle said.

His proposal included 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits, tax rebates for those left out of last year's tax cut, a bonus depreciation provision to encourage new business investment and fiscal relief for states.

The White House said Wednesday it welcomed Daschle's effort.

On Tuesday, Bush traveled to West Virginia touting economic stimulus as a way to secure jobs for displaced workers.

"My economic plan is based upon this word: jobs. I want to ask that question all around the country, what do we do to create work?" Bush told supporters in Charleston, W.Va. "There's a lot of good people who want to work, and we've got to help them find work. And so I'm asking Congress, when they come back, to keep in mind one word: jobs."

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., was noncommittal on whether Daschle's plan would work, but said he was pleased senators were talking.

"It's a process that could get us into considering the bill and reaching a conclusion that would get it into conference. I'm concerned that it - for the most part, three parts of the four parts that would be in it are really spending provisions, but again, I think that Senator Daschle's trying to find a way to ... produce a bill that would have a stimulative effect on the economy," Lott said.

The White House has said it was unclear whether a stimulus package would be useful once Congress returned, but Bush undertook an aggressive push, visiting farm states last week to back the plan.

Private sector forecasters have predicted the economy may rebound next year, but at a less robust rate without the help the stimulus bill could provide.

A $100 billion version of the economic stimulus bill was approved in October by the House of Representatives and backed by the White House. Then late in December, the House ushered through a revised bill, which included additional benefits for displaced workers, apparently the sticking point for Senate Democrats.

Differences remained, however, with the White House supporting, among other things, a refundable tax credit to displaced workers that they could immediately use to purchase health insurance benefits.

Democrats were not satisfied with the tax credit and wanted instead provisions providing direct payments to workers and increased unemployment insurance benefits.

The White House needed 60 votes in the Senate to get its measure through, but had far fewer than that. The remaining alternative was for it to garner support for compromise legislation, which never happened.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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We had a good conversation this morning to start out this new year, said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. We talked about some of the things that we've been able to achieve together, through partnership - bipartisan, bicameral, with the president. We've pursued this...
Wednesday, 23 January 2002 12:00 AM
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