Who's to Blame for Not Passing the Economic Stimulus Package?
Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Senate failed to consider a compromise economic stimulus package prior to its adjournment Thursday, leaving Americans to wonder who is to blame for the stimulus not passing. The House passed the bill early Thursday morning on a 224 to 193 vote.
"All we want is a vote on it," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) late Thursday morning. "I say to Senator Daschle, 'Just give us a chance to vote, and you'll see how overwhelming the support is for it."
Early in the day, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) signaled his commitment to resolve the issue.
"We're ready to do whatever it takes," he told reporters. "We're not gonna walk away from this responsibility."
But when Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) tried to call the bill up for debate and a vote, Daschle used a procedural maneuver to block consideration.
"We've looked at the compromise one last time and have concluded that it's wrong on all counts," Daschle claimed.
He acknowledged that the Republican tax cuts contained within the proposal were the sticking point.
"I think they believe there has to be a tax cut for the common cold. I think that it's almost impossible to think of a Republican remedy that doesn't involve a tax cut, " Daschle said. "There is a philosophical divide that evidences itself in these debates constantly, and this is no different."
In addition to the tax cuts proposed by Republicans, the compromise proposal included $53 billion in new government spending, including $14 billion in direct stimulus payments to low-income families, $18 billion in additional unemployment benefits, and $21 billion to provide health insurance coverage for unemployed workers and their families.
"What about all those Americans who don't have jobs and who don't have health insurance? What are we going to tell them?" asked Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). "What, that we just had a 'philosophical opposition?' I don't think that's right."
Criticism from some corners of Daschle's own party was equally harsh.
"Unfortunately our political parties sometimes feel that they are actually helped when nothing is done," said Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), "so that they can blame the other side for failure and, perhaps, pick up a few congressional seats."
Breaux was one of the Democrats promoting the compromise, along with Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, who dismissed Daschle's charges that Republican tax cut provisions would only help the wealthy.
"The folks who would benefit from this are folks who earn as little as $27,000," he said. "Those are not the wealthy or the rich. Those are middle income Americans ... and let us not forget that this bill would include a $300 rebate for those who did not get anything from the earlier tax cut."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had warned that President Bush would be "very disappointed" if Daschle blocked the vote.
"I did hear (Thursday) morning different senators use ... one senator used the word, 'charade,' another senator used the word, 'dead.' But in the president's opinion, the strength of the economy and the hopes of America's workers are too important for the stimulus to be declared dead. And to the people who are unemployed, or people who may lose their jobs, this isn't a charade," Fleischer said. "This is their lives."
When asked who was responsible for the breakdown, Breaux said unemployed workers aren't concerned with the "blame game."
"Americans cannot go to the grocery store and buy milk and buy bread with blame," he said. "It doesn't work."
Breaux also says he doesn't understand why compromise is such a "dirty word" in Washington.
"Is it not better to reach an agreement that you can get 70 percent of what you want and then fight for the remainder in the future?" he asked.
"I'm a kind-of a 'half a loaf man.' Whether it's 75 percent or 65 percent or 50 percent, when you get right down to it, that's always better than zero percent," he said. "You can eat half a loaf. Having no loaf at all may make a political point but, in the end, somebody goes hungry.
"As it is, we have no loaf. We have no loaf at all," Miller said. "We don't even have a slice."