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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I guess I'm not buying in. Well, whether you're out of the market or still in, Congress and the White House are working on an economic stimulus plan. That could put some money in your pocket.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator, how quickly do you think you will have a stimulus package ready?

Senator MAX BAUCUS (Democrat, Montana): Well, the sooner the better. I'm hoping that sometime early spring, maybe March - hopefully earlier, if we can get it done. It all depends on how willing the White House and the Congress is to work together. I'm doing all I can do make sure that we do that, get just a solid result that gives a stimulus.

CHADWICK: Well, you've talked about tax cuts and spending. I think you heard from the head of the Congressional Budget Office that one lesson you all have learned from years past is that you want to put money for stimulus in the hands of lower income people because they spend it more quickly, and that's what you need. Is that your thinking?

Sen. BAUCUS: I think that we want to use taxpayers' dollars wisely and that means a stimulus package which basically gets money out the door quickly, and that tends to be people of middle income and lower income. The main thing too is to get an agreement here. This is after all - it's - we're a democracy. It's the executive branch and the legislative branch, so it's finding something that both the president and the Congress can agree on.

CHADWICK: Middle and lower income, you're thinking. Now, some - this is a tax rebate package that you're talking about, but some of the lower income people who would spend this money most quickly - actually, they don't pay taxes. So what are you going to do for them?

Sen. BAUCUS: The real question to me is how many people in addition to those who pay income tax should also be the beneficiary of the rebate payment? And my view on that is that it should be not only people who pay income taxes but also people with payroll taxes and seniors as well.

CHADWICK: Is this going to be the source of a battle, do you think?

Sen. BAUCUS: Well, I think - it's an interesting question. We haven't reached agreement here.

CHADWICK: Yeah.

Sen. BAUCUS: But I think, when we do sit down with the president, that we'll come up with a result which will enable people who not only pay income taxes but also people do not pay income taxes to get some benefit.

CHADWICK: You know this week started very grimly. Markets closed here, but way down in Asia and Europe. And then before markets opened here this week on Tuesday the Fed cut the short-term interest rate by three quarters of a point. Is that enough for you? Senator Dodd - he's chair of the Banking Committee - says maybe there should be more?

Sen. BAUCUS: Well, I - it certainly helped. But again, I think it's important here to not - to look not only at the stock market but also look at basic fundamentals. The fundamentals are clearly, you know, the subprime crisis and also the so-called credit markets - that is, banks' willingness to lend has dried up a lot too, irrespective of the fall in the stock market. The fact is, if we focus on fundamentals, that's most important for us in Congress and I think that's more important for the Federal Reserve. But I think it's - for the time being I think that's fine.

CHADWICK: Senator, here's a question. The World Economic Forum, you know, is starting in Davos, Switzerland, this annual meeting of all the big and powerful people getting together. I don't know if you're flying over for that one.

Sen. BAUCUS: No, I'm staying here.

CHADWICK: You are. Okay, well at these meetings, for years people have been saying it's a global economy, it's a global economy, it's a global economy. And you know, this week it doesn't look so much like a global economy. It again looks like if something goes wrong in America or people fear something's going wrong in America, everything blows up. As a policymaker, what do you do with that?

Sen. BAUCUS: Well, frankly, on the contrary, I think that recent events show that we are very linked. But I do think that we in the Congress nevertheless should, you know, help Americans here. That means a stimulus package which helps put money in the pockets of Americans. That's going to help Americans primarily. It's going to have a positive effect, along with the rate cuts, I think, perhaps in other countries too. But obviously the primary beneficial effect would be to the United States, and that's our primary responsibility.

CHADWICK: Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana. He's chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator, thank you.

Sen. BAUCUS: You bet. Thanks, Alex.

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