Senate Democrats Have Plans for Stimulus Package

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The ink is barely dry on an agreement House leaders hammered out this week with the Bush administration for a $150 billion economic stimulus plan. But already there's talk of how it might be changed in the Senate.

The plan relies on a combination of individual tax rebates and business tax cuts to spur the economy.

President Bush, who spoke to Republican House members at their annual party retreat in West Virgina Friday, said he thinks the measure is fine the way it is:

"I understand the desire to add provisions from both the right and the left," he said. "I strongly believe it would be a mistake to delay or derail this bill."

The agreement is likely to sail unscathed through the House within the next 10 days, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat from California. But even Pelosi wouldn't hazard a guess as to what happens next:

"Far be it for me to ever predict what the Senate may produce with their very senatorial rules," she said.

Senate Democrats are lining up with plans to add on to the measure.

The most likely additions are two things Pelosi dropped during her negotiations with congressional Republicans and the White House: money to extend jobless benefits and provisions to extend food stamps to more people.

Sen. Robert Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, sees that as a mistake:

"We know that by investing in that strategy [food stamps] they will spend money quickly," Casey said Friday. "That's what we need. We need people to spend money very rapidly to dig us out of the hole that were in."

To that end, Casey is pushing for "food stamps, unemployment benefits and aid to the states."

Another suggestion came from Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota.

"One of the quick ways to put people back to work and also to invest in America's future — to help build America — is in infrastructure," Dorgan said. "Roads and bridges and dams and all the things that have been deteriorating."

But Dorgan acknowledged that the infrastructure plan he proposes might best be part of a second stimulus bill, to be acted on by Congress a bit later down the road.

Democrats in the Senate have also been talking of a summer jobs program and giving states money to help with their Medicaid costs.

The Senate has traditionally been more free spending than the House, a tendency House Minority Leader John Boehner tried to temper Friday.

Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said it would be irresponsible for Senate Democrats to — as he put it — "load this bill up with pork and other spending."

The Senate Finance Committee says it will begin writing its version of the stimulus bill next week.

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