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Showdown vote looms on Senate economic aid plan

Showdown vote looms on Senate economic aid plan

By: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate moved toward a partisan clash today over Democrats’ efforts to add more than $40 billion in checks for the elderly, disabled veterans and the unemployed, and heating aid for the poor to a House-passed economic aid plan.
Democrats were struggling to find enough GOP support to advance the package over the objections of Republican leaders, who have called instead for sticking with a much narrower House plan costing $161 billion over the next two years. The White House urged the Senate this week to pass that measure “without delay.”
“We started out united behind a proposal to help struggling taxpayers and stimulate the economy. Now some are insisting on a plan that might not even be signed into law,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Republican leader.
The House plan would send rebates of $600-$1,200 to about 111 million Americans who receive paychecks of $3,000 or more, plus an additional $300 per child, with less available to individuals with income in excess of $75,000 and couples making more than $150,000. The Senate version has checks of $500-$1,000 for a broader group that includes 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans, and taxpayers making up to $150,000 — or $300,000 for individuals.
The Senate package also includes a $14.5 billion unemployment extension for those whose benefits have run out, $1 billion in heating aid for the poor — a program that enjoys broad bipartisan support — and a tax break that allows businesses suffering losses to reclaim previously paid taxes. It includes $10 billion in mortgage bonds to help homeowners refinance their loans and several tax breaks for renewable energy.
“The House plan was a start, but it was only a start,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
McConnell said Republicans favor simply adding rebates for seniors and disabled veterans to the House-passed bill, as well as including language — also part of Senate Democrats’ measure — designed to ensure that illegal immigrants can’t get rebates.
That GOP proposal has support from the White House, McConnell said, “so we can expect that it would be signed into law.”
Democrats need 60 votes to advance their more costly package, and they were lobbying intensely to convert wavering Republicans, including several facing tough re-election fights. Their efforts were getting a hefty boost from outside groups leaning on senators to back the package, including home builders, manufacturers and the powerful seniors’ lobby.
GOP leaders, working to stem defections, were assuring Republicans that they would have another chance to support adding senior citizens and disabled veterans to the aid plan even if they opposed the Democrats’ bill.
Reid has rejected that idea, saying on Monday, “I don’t think it’s right to pick and choose” between the elements of his party’s broader package.
Published in The Messenger 2.6.08

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