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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We contacted Republican Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran to ask about the stimulus package ,including that proposal we've just been hearing about for a four percent mortgage rate.

Senator THAD COCHRAN (Republican, Mississippi): Housing is a big part of the economy. There's several senators who are urging us to put that as the number one goal - is to fix the housing problem. And I think they are right, we can't ignore it, but we don't have to do one thing at a time. We can do several things at the same time.

MONTAGNE: There are, as you well know, different schools of thought about what would indeed stimulate the economy and keep it going in the long run. For Republicans, you believe in cutting taxes in some way, shape, or form.

Senator COCHRAN: Well, I think a better way to say it is that we believe in investing the money in activities that create jobs.

MONTAGNE: If this bill remained at close to 900 billion as it is now, what would it have to contain for you and other Republicans to support it?

Senator COCHRAN: Well, I don't think that we're just saying a dollar amount is going to make the difference. What is going to make the difference is how the money is spent.

MONTAGNE: But the overall amount would be acceptable if it was spent in a different way. What would that different way be?

Senator COCHRAN: 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 a chance to have long-term job security, a growing economy, these are the things that we need to seek to achieve with this package of changes in our laws.

MONTAGNE: Well, turning to your own state for a moment, since you are a senator from Mississippi, are there specific things that you can imagine your fellow Mississippians needing and ultimately getting out of this stimulus package?

Senator COCHRAN: Well, you know, 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 further inland. There are so many places that you can spend money effectively and to serve the public interests. Our port in Gulf Port for example, redesigning facilities so they won't be washed away in a future storm of that magnitude. 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, in our state government - to meet our part of the responsibility as well.

MONTAGNE: Though among those things, it sounds like infrastructure would rate rather highly.

Senator COCHRAN: It would be very high on the list. That's exactly right, because the needs are so great and many have been unmet now for several years.

MONTAGNE: What would be your estimate of how long it would take for this stimulus package to pass through the whole debate process?

Senator COCHRAN: Well, we hope it gets passed expeditiously. The need is now. We don't need to delay any longer. We need to come together and figure out exactly what the members can accept and get it passed and conferenced and sent to the president. We have a national emergency on our hands and we need to treat it seriously as such.

MONTAGNE: So your expectation is at the end of the line, there will be Republican votes.

Senator COCHRAN: That's right. Let's work our differences and get the final passage.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator COCHRAN: Thank you for talking with me.

MONTAGNE: Senator Thad Cochran is a Republican from Mississippi.

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