Stimulus Plan Has GOP Senate Votes, Leader Says

Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi says he expects there will be Republican votes for a stimulus package in the Senate.

"Let's work out our differences and get to final passage," he says.

Cochran, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says he hopes the stimulus package makes its way through the Senate expeditiously. "The need is now," he tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "We have a national emergency on our hands and we need to treat it seriously as such."

The appropriations panel last week approved its portion of the stimulus package, which would provide $350 billion toward infrastructure and increased funding for education and unemployment.

Cochran says the most important thing is not the dollar figure on the package — which is now close to $900 billion — but how the money is spent.

"We need to have in place changes in the tax code that will encourage investment in the economy, in job-producing activities that will give people the chance to have long-term job security, a growing economy," he says. "These are the things that we need to seek to achieve with this package of changes in our laws."

In his home state of Mississippi, Cochran says, one of the biggest needs is money for infrastructure improvements.

"We've really been up against it in Mississippi because of Hurricane Katrina and the ravaging damages that were done along the Gulf Coast and even farther inland. There are so many places that you can spend money effectively and to serve the public interest — our port in Gulfport, for example, redesigning facilities so they won't be washed away in a future storm of that magnitude," Cochran says. "So we've got our hands full in our state and we're looking for ways to thoughtfully and efficiently use government assistance from Washington, where it's appropriate, but at the same time, do what we have to do in our local governments and our state government to meet our part of the responsibility."

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