Saturday, February 07, 2009

Opinion: Is the senate's stimulus package positive progress or a step backwards?

Next Big Hurdle for Stimulus: House-Senate Negotiations

A day after striking a deal with moderate Republicans on a massive but pared-back economic stimulus package, Senate Democratic leaders moved toward a Feb. 9 procedural vote, a vote on final passage a day later and difficult negotiations with the House.

With the backing of three Republican moderates — Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — Democratic leaders have the 60 votes needed to overcome opposition from conservatives who remain opposed to the package.

The exact cost of the compromise remained somewhat in flux as the Senate engaged in three hours of debate Saturday and Democratic leaders put the finishing touches on legislative language. While the revised plan released Friday night carried an estimated cost of about $780 billion, amendments adopted during Senate floor debate are likely to push the total cost past $800 billion. Those additions include a provision sponsored by Johnny Isakson , R-Ga., that would create a $15,000 tax credit for homebuyers.

Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., was expected to file a motion to limit debate on the package before the Senate adjourned for the day on Saturday, setting the stage for Monday’s pivotal vote.

Democratic leaders want to quickly conclude a House-Senate conference this week and clear the bill before the Presidents Day recess begins next weekend. But meeting that goal will require a heavy lift both procedurally and to sort out substantive differences between the House and Senate packages.

The Senate will vote at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 on a motion to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on an amendment containing the compromise version of the stimulus. Assuming the motion is adopted, the Senate will consider the amendment itself at noon the following day. Republicans are expected to raise a budgetary point of order against the amendment, but Democrats will have the 60 votes needed to override the objection. Then, the Senate will move to a final vote on the amendment.

At the behest of moderates, the Friday night compromise shaved about $108 billion from the original Senate proposal. Appropriators cut $83 billion in discretionary spending from the Senate plan, including funding for school construction and other programs favored by Democrats in the House and Senate. The Finance Committee pared back health care spending provisions by $7 billion, and scaled back the tax cut package by $18 billion.

Democrats appeared to be united behind the latest plan assembled by a group of moderates, despite some grumbling about the changes needed to attract a handful of GOP votes.
“It’s not a perfect bill from my perspective, and I don’t agree with everything that’s in it and everything that came out, but literally we can’t afford to wait any longer to get something passed,” Amy Klobuchar , D-Minn., said on the Senate floor Saturday.

The tradeoffs needed to get enough votes for the plan in the Senate presaged tough bargaining with the House before a final bill is delivered to President Obama, who, according to one lawmaker, signed off on the Senate deal. Top House Democrats were already complaining about the Senate moves before the agreement was formally announced.

The single biggest spending cut to the original Senate plan comes out of a $79 billion state fiscal stabilization allocation that would help states avoid tax increases and cutbacks in education and other high priority services. The compromise trims that funding to $39 billion and sets up a conflict with the House-passed bill that allocates $79 billion.

Another major difference between the House and Senate bills involves school construction. The House allocated $14 billion to renovate, repair and build public schools. The Senate zeroed out the $16 billion its original bill set aside for that purpose.

The compromise also eliminates $3.5 billion for higher education facility modernization and purchase of instructional equipment. The House voted to provide $6 billion for higher education.
The compromise would cut additional funding for Head Start and Early Head Start, programs to prepare children to succeed in school, from $2.1 billion to 1.05 billion. That’s half of the $2.1 billion in the House bill.

The Senate substitute eliminates $5.8 billion in the original measure that would have been spent on grants and contracts to prevent illness through health screenings, education, immunization, nutrition counseling, media campaigns and other activities. The House has set aside $3 billion for prevention and wellness.

Funds to expand the use of electronic record keeping in health care are cut from $5 billion to $3 billion in the substitute, still more than the $2 billion in the House plan. Under the new Senate plan, a national coordinator would distribute the money to pay for technology, planning and training.

The compromise eliminates funding for pandemic flu preparedness, a prominent target of critics who said figuring out how to increase the supply of vaccine would not create jobs. The House bill includes $900 million for flu, and the original Senate proposal had $870 million.

The Senate substitute zeroes out $2.25 billion in funding for a neighborhood stabilization program, which would have provided funds to states, local units of government and organizations to purchase and rehabilitate abandoned and foreclosed upon homes. The House allocated $4.19 billion for the program.

In the compromise, funding to increase broadband access in rural areas and other underserved parts of the country is reduced by $2 billion, from $9 billion to $7 billion. That’s still more than twice as much as the $3.175 billion in the House bill.

The Senate proposal also trims additions to the Byrne justice assistance grant program, which provides formula funding to state and local police. The compromise would cut $450 million from the Byrne grants, reducing funding from $1.5 billion to $1.05 billion, according to information provided by Ben Nelson , D-Neb., an author of the compromise. The House allocated $3 billion for Byrne grants.

Other differences that will have to be resolved in conference include the additional funding for a federal program that provides home weatherization services to increase energy efficiency for low-income families. The Senate allocates $2.9 billion for the program, while the House bill has $6.2 billion.

The Senate bill includes $2 billion for FutureGen, a near-zero emissions, coal-fired plant that backers want to build in Mattoon, Ill. The project has been a priority for Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin , D-Ill., and for Obama when he was an Illinois senator. The House bill does not include the project.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate version does not include additional funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income families pay utility bills. The House bill has another $1 billion for the program.

Kathleen Hunter, Lydia Gensheimer, Bart Jansen, Catharine Richert and Edward Epstein contributed to this story.


nathanl said...

Whether Americans like or not, there's going to be increased spending to help resolve the economic crisis. As long as this package is administered in the careful and purposeful manner outlined in the bill, I support it.

Addie said...

"As long as this package is administered in the careful and purposeful manner outlined in the bill..."

I totally agree with this statement, and I do not mind that more of my money will be spent to resolve the crisis, but what will we do with people who do not administer it carefully and properly? How can we be sure that this package will be a success and those who receive the money will adhere to its rules?

I don't mind the government spending my money, I just want to know for sure that it's meeting its purpose.

Alli B said...

The senate's stimulus package is positive progress. The package includes tax cuts and spending on projects that is going to create new jobs and save a lot of the jobs that are suffering. Overall I think it's good to see action being taken to stimulate the economy.

Jenni F said...

Well, I'm not sure if the last stimulus package was deemed a great success so personally, I don't feel the rush to go for a second one. I understand it's a new administration and different plan, and I do think the plan holds a postive outlook for the future. Also, Obama does have it outlined really nicely on his website. But, like everyone else mentioned, if it is executed carefully and purposefully I think it would make a great impact on our economy.

JeremyL said...

I am really on thre fence about this bill...I mean if it starts the economy in the right direction I'm all for it, but all this extra spending seems to be making things worse. President Obama said things will get worse before they get better so hopefully this stimulus package is the begining of what he's talking about.

TylerDL said...

Now is the wrong time to "inject" money into the economy. We should be lowering taxes insted of barrowing money to spend. The government should be running this country like a business. When your bussiness is down, you do not spend money loosely, you conserve. By impulsivly spending money like this, i feel we will continue to fall deeper into a bad economy.

Jessie R said...

I think that this bill is probably going to end up being a step backwards, because the Senate largely reduced the money that was going to go to the states to help reduce tax increases. So I think the bill would start to help, but then people are going to have to pay higher taxes for the state,which will just send them back to step one.

d gunderson said...

This bill is extremely necessary and even though everyone is complaining about the large price tag just get over it. We are in a lot of trouble and we're going to have to spend more than this. The one thing though is that we have to watch where all of the money goes. I've been hearing of some pork, but the only thing I have seen was something about an underwater telescope which is not necessary. Overall though all of this has to be done and will hopefully help the economy.

mlowe1191 said...

I personilly hope it hits 1 trillon dollars. Just for the sake of the number.
But for real now i really think it needs to be monitard well...track every dollar of this from the get-go. I think will help tremendusly.

mevanoff said...

This stimulus package will not work. Our CEOs do not receive this stimulus check so that means they spend more on taxes, which inturn leaves them with less money to spend. Now with less money they will pay employees less or have less of them to make up for their payment for this bill. If they only fire employees that would be lucky because they could just shut their business down and run with their money to the tropics but Obama has everything figured out.....seeing as how well the first stimulus package worked. Socialism step 1...complete?

Kyle K said...

I think the senate's stimulus package is going to end up to be a step backwards. Like most people have been saying, in order for this to work those getting the money must use it properly. I feel that those who are going to receive the money will not use it properly, causing the economy get worse

Sergeant K. said...

I am opposed to this new bill. I think that this is too much money being put in the hands of too few people. Like Jenni said, the last one didn't work so well, so what makes us so positive that throwing even more money at our economic struggles will do more to help fix it?

JakeK said...

WELL SAID MATT!!! I agree, you can't counter an economic crisis with increased spending especially when that spending is not going where it should. Why should we allow the blunder of the first stimulus plan to go unnoticed? Let's learn from our mistakes.

Ryan K said...

Well by now the bill has been passed. In my opinion I’m very glad it has passed and that congress has come up with a NEW DEAL for the economy. Oops….. Did I say something wrong? It just sounds like something like this may have happened before and it might have worked. Lastly @ TylerDL I don’t think that really worked for something like the past eight years or so.

MattC said...

I believe it's positive progress, because at this point the only way we can exit this financial mess is to spend our way out of it by creating new projects to stimulate industry; this includes a dormant, but massive "green" industry. By the way, a really easy way to help pay for the stimulus is to end the war on drugs and tax them.