Senate Appears To Have Deal On Stimulus
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
The Senate has arrived at a deal on a stimulus package. The majority Democrats have needed a few Republicans to push the bill over the 60-vote mark and bring it to the floor for a vote. It appears they now have those votes. They've compromised on a slimmed-down version of the bill that was floated earlier. The cost is now said to be about $780 billion.
And joining us to talk about this deal is NPR's senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Ron Elving. Ron, hi.
RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Melissa.
BLOCK: The upper limit of this bill had ballooned up to about what, $925 billion?
ELVING: We saw estimates as high as 937, 940. I think officially it was in the 925 range, but the estimates were higher.
BLOCK: And now, at least, Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican who said he will vote for this bill, says they've cut $145 billion out to get to this compromise. How did they do it?
ELVING: Well, if you accept that number, the 925, and you take out 145, that's how you get to the 780. But we don't have details yet. We haven't seen what they've cut out of the bill. I think we have to assume that it primarily came out of spending, what you might call social spending, spending for education and a number of other issues and needs that the Obama administration was pressing. We don't know though for certain what the mix of tax cuts that have been eliminated and spending programs that have been eliminated is, or even if they have the votes to make it happen.
BLOCK: Yeah. Well, that's a key question, of which Republicans might be going over. We know - we've heard from a couple of them so far in the floor debate.
ELVING: Yes. Susan Collins has come out and said she's in favor of the deal, as she was…
BLOCK: Republican of Maine.
ELVING: …one of the negotiators of it along with Ben Nelson, who is a rather conservative Democrat from Nebraska. And we know that Arlen Specter has said he'd be willing to vote for it. If they have Ted Kennedy's vote - and of course, he's been down in Florida, hasn't seen the Senate since Inauguration Day, if they have Ted Kennedy's vote, that would theoretically be enough if they line up every last other Democrat; we don't know if they have them.
BLOCK: Yeah. The balance here is interesting, Ron. I mean, going in, the balance was supposed to be about 67 percent spending, 33 percent tax cuts. According to one senator, at least, John Kerry, that ratio is now 58 percent spending, 42 percent tax cuts. Again, we don't know if that's the case. But this has been a huge sticking point.
ELVING: Yes. And that will be a huge sticking point, if it's true, when they sit down to do their conference with the House. The House is a going to object to that very strenuously. Many people in the House did not feel that there should be tax cuts in the package at all. So that's going to be a sticking point when they have that conference, which must take place before this can be enacted.
BLOCK: Well, walk us through what has to happen now, please, Ron.
ELVING: First of all, we have to find out how many votes they actually have for this deal, and what is in the deal. And we might find out there are all kinds of deal breakers in it. Second, we have to find out what Republican tactics may still be in use tonight, tomorrow, Sunday. We don't know when they're going to vote; that's not clear. Then if they do get a vote, and if they do get 60 votes, then they have to go to conference with the House. They have to come up with a compromise version, which can then pass both chambers again. And then that has to be signed into law by the president.
BLOCK: Miles to go before they sleep.
BLOCK: Ron, thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Melissa.
BLOCK: NPR's senior Washington editor, Ron Elving.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.