Daschle Won't Allow Vote on Compromise Stimulus Plan
(Editor's note: The House of Representatives passed the revised economic stimulus bill on a vote of 224-193 early Thursday morning, after this story was published. Nine Democrats joined Republicans in voting yes.)
Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) says he has no intention of bringing a Republican economic stimulus plan up for a vote in the Senate.
"It would not be my intention to bring it up because it does not represent the kind of compromise that we had hoped to achieve here," Daschle said Wednesday. "Obviously, unless there is some sort of a compromise agreement, I don't think it makes any sense (to bring it up)."
The House is scheduled to vote on a second stimulus plan, the Economic Growth and Security Act, Wednesday afternoon. The bill is based on a compromise reached between Republican leaders and "centrist" Democrats, represented by Sen. John Breaux (D-La.).
President Bush calls the proposal a "very constructive, real plan" to stimulate the economy.
"This bill can pass both bodies," he said during a meeting Wednesday morning with Breaux and Republican leaders at the U.S. Capitol. "A lot of people have lost their jobs and don't have healthcare, and the people around this table said, 'I want to do something about it.'"
The president thanked the legislators "for recognizing that there is something more important than politics - and that's to do our jobs, to recognize we have a serious problem and address it and solve the problem."
But Daschle claims only Democrats have been willing to compromise.
"We have come more than halfway in meeting our Republican colleagues on an array of tax questions that they have said were important to them," he said.
"But, to date, they have been unwilling to accept even a modicum of change, even some degree of limited help for these unemployed workers in both unemployment compensation, as well as health care," Daschle added.
House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) calls Daschle's assertion "baloney."
"The package that we'll vote on (Wednesday) afternoon has a much more expanded version of healthcare and unemployment benefits than the Democrats wanted," Watts explained. "I would hope that the majority leader would put people before politics ... and let's try to address this and get Americans back to work. But he's just failed to do that."
The answer from House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) to Daschle's charge was more direct.
"I think Mr. Daschle has to respond to the saying, 'Actions speak louder than words.' The House has passed a stimulus package. Where's the Senate package? Where's the Daschle package? Where's the 'Daschle and the Democrats' package? They have yet to pass a stimulus package," he said.
"The American people know who passed the stimulus package to get America working again, and that's the House Republicans," Nussle said.
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) says it's important for Democrats and Republicans to resolve their differences and pass a bill before going home for the holidays.
"We stand ready to continue to work day and night to get this done for the people of the country; not only the unemployed, but people who are about to lose their jobs," he said, "businesses that are starting to fail and have difficulty are all in need of help today."
That urgent feeling that Congress must "do something" has at least one observer a little nervous.
"That's where I really get scared about what Congress is going to do, when they give themselves a deadline, because then the art of the deal becomes more important than the content of the legislation," Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition said.
Bixby explains that Congress has already spent $40 billion in emergency appropriations and $10 billion in increases to the regular budget, plus the additional money given to airlines since Sept. 11th. He says that doesn't even take into consideration the amount of money the June 2001 tax cuts will return to the economy in 2002.
"There's been around $60 billion, or so, of new spending that they've agreed to since September 11th. Add that to the $70 billion in tax cuts and you're up over one percent of Gross Domestic Product for stimulus right there," he said.
Bixby says he's encouraging Congress to simply go home, and check back on the economy in January when they return.
"If the economy is showing signs of perking up they won't need to do anything more. But if the economy is weakening, they can act quickly to revive some of these ideas," he said. "All these options will still be on the table."
But Watts says that's a hard idea to sell to someone who has, or is about to lose their job, or to the business owner who's about to have to lay off that worker.
"We think we need to do something to help create some energy in the economy. Government can't do everything, but we can do something. And that, which we can do, we should do," he said. "In the House, we've responded. We just can't get any help from the Senate Democrats."