Obama And Senate Republicans Bicker Over Stimulus

President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans bickered Saturday over his historically huge economic recovery plan after states and schools lost tens of billions of dollars in a late-night bargain to save it.

The $827 billion measure is on track to pass the Senate on Tuesday despite stiff opposition from the GOP and disappointment among Democrats, including the new president who labeled it imperfect. Next up: Difficult negotiations between the House and Senate, which are divided over spending for tax cuts, education and aid for local governments.

"We can't afford to make perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address, sounding a note of pragmatism that liberal followers rarely heard on the campaign trail.

Still, the popular president — six in 10 voters approve of his performance so far — scolded Republicans with a pointed reminder that Democrats, not Republicans, were victorious in November.

Hours later, the Senate convened a rare Saturday session to debate a compromise forged between GOP moderates and the White House on Friday, a rare burst of comity aimed at securing passage of the bill with a few Republican votes joining the Democratic majority.

The compromise reached between a handful of GOP moderates led Susan Collins of Maine, the White House and its Senate allies stripped $108 billion in spending from Obama's plan, including cutbacks in projects that likely would give the economy a quick lift, like $40 billion in aid to state governments for education and other programs.

Yet it retained items that also probably won't help the economy much, such as $650 million to help people without cable receive digital signals through their old-fashioned televisions or $1 billion to fix problems with the 2010 Census.

Among the most difficult cuts for the White House and its liberal allies to accept was the elimination of $40 billion in aid to states, money that economists say is a relatively efficient way to pump up the economy by preventing layoffs, cuts in services or tax increases.

"It reduces a number of highly stimulative items like state fiscal relief ... and largely substitute for it some large tax cuts that are highly ineffective as stimulus," said Bob Greenstein, founder of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "So your net result is a bill that gets significantly less bang for the buck."

For all the talk of cuts, the bill retains the core of Obama's plan, designed to ease the worst economic recession in generations by combining hundreds of billions of dollars in spending to boost consumption by the public sector with tax cuts designed to increase consumer spending.

Negotiators left in the package $70 billion to address the alternative minimum tax to make sure families wouldn't be socked with unexpected tax increases averaging $2,300 or so. The problem was going to be fixed later in the year anyway, and congressional economists say fixing the AMT problem helps the economy by surprisingly little.

While publicly supportive of the bill, White House officials and top Democrats said they were disappointed that so much money was cut, including almost $20 billion for construction and repair of schools and university facilities. Those funds would have supported many construction jobs.

The $827 billion package debated in the Senate on Saturday — down from a $937 billion or so version debated during the week — included Obama's signature tax cut of up to $1,000 for working couples. Also included is a tax credit of up to $15,000 for homebuyers and smaller breaks for people buying new cars.

Much of the new spending would be for victims of the recession, in the form of extending unemployment insurance through the end of the year and increasing benefits by $25 a week, free or subsidized health care, and increased food stamp payments.

Obama himself acknowledged that the bill was far from perfect but said it would be too dangerous to leave it lifeless on the table.

"In the midst of our greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people were hoping that Congress would begin to confront the great challenges we face," Obama said in the address, released before he made his first trip to Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains.

"That was, after all, what last November's election was all about," he said.

Obama made an aggressive push for House and Senate lawmakers to work quickly to resolve their differences. The White House plans a major public relations blitz: A prime-time news conference Monday, several trips outside Washington next week and an address to a joint session of Congress later this month.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also planned to announce the details of a separate financial stability package on Tuesday, structuring how the administration would use another $350 billion in emergency relief approved last year to prop up the nation's banks on the brink of failure, a senior administration official said Saturday evening.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private administration planning. The announcement had been pushed back from Monday, when Obama plans to pitch his economic plan.

Lawmakers were already looking ahead to House and Senate talks where a handful of GOP moderates such as Collins and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — whose votes are crucial to pass the bill — seemed to have the upper hand against House Democrats unhappy with changes such as curbing increases for early childhood education and subsidies to bring the Internet to rural areas.

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  • by Tad Location: Jamesville on Feb 9, 2009 at 07:30 PM
    I never was an obuma supporter and he is a lying hustler but not just another politician. He is "the one for whom the stupid have been waiting".
  • by Jesse Location: Kinston on Feb 9, 2009 at 05:28 PM
    I used to be an Obama supporter but he is just another lying politician.
  • by Honorable Bloggie Location: NC on Feb 9, 2009 at 10:41 AM
    "Anonymous", obviously, your eye sight isn't the only thing bad; so is your reasoning. Don't pay taxes, but don't drive on the highway the next time you take your family trip. Don't pay taxes, instead pay for your child to attend a private charter school. Don't pay taxes, but be sure to never use public transportation. Your logic is extremely flawed. Please think everything out before you post again.
  • by Tad Location: Jamesville on Feb 8, 2009 at 08:46 PM
    Honorable Floggie, have you checked the polls lately. The American people have decided they don't like this stinker of a pork bill. Republican and dumocrat senators can read the polls and listen to the phone calls to their office. Idiots like nancy pelosi may not listen, they think they are all knowing, but most do. This bill will not stimulate the economy, it is not designed to, it is designed to spend money on pet projects of the left like ACORN funding. If this bill is passed the economy will continue to decline, the "one" will continue to blame Bush and stupid sheep will continue to beleive him "bah bah, yes we can, yes we can, bah bah, change change, bah bah" all the way to slaughter pen.
  • by Honorable Bloggie Location: NC on Feb 8, 2009 at 07:43 PM
    Big John, I believe Fred was talking about property taxes. Fred, do whatever rocks your boat, but don't be embarrassed when they confiscate your property.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 8, 2009 at 07:39 PM
    I heard thru the grapevine that taxes are not constitutional. "Taxation without representation." We definitely don't have representation..." To pay Taxes is an Honor, not a requirement...Some one Google this please. My eye site is bad...
  • by Matt Location: NC on Feb 8, 2009 at 07:14 PM
    They could have given every family in the US a million dollars and everyone could pay their bills and companies would have proffited with less than 500 million dollars. Why did they not do this? It's about owning the banks (under government control) and owning YOU by taking more of your freedoms. People stop and think for 1 second. Am I the only one who see's this? It's time for a revolution!! It won't happen as long as we are soooo passive. It's not all our fault though. If you step out of line you will be punished, believe me. Such a sad state.
  • by Big John on Feb 8, 2009 at 05:39 PM
    Fred, I don't know if you noticed but most people do not send their tax money in to the government, their employer deducts it from their pay. You have no control over paying taxes. No company will go along with you having a revolt, the only way out of paying tax is, don't work or die so you can help your self to ether choice.
  • by Fred Location: NC on Feb 8, 2009 at 04:12 PM
    The tax payer needs to revolt and not send in any tax money this quarter. It doesn't matter how many give away programs they have, if there is no funding they can't happen!! If the American tax payer doesn't stand up for his/her self, we will be like several European countries, Socialist!!!!!
  • by Cactus Location: Strabane on Feb 8, 2009 at 02:51 PM
    Once we only had welfare for people, now we have welfare for corporations and unions. Kimo I see you understand Obama.
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