Senate Democrats Have Plans for Stimulus Package House leaders and the White House hammered out a $150 billion stimulus deal this week. But should the bill pass the House as anticipated in the next 10 days, it may still face challenges in the Senate.
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Senate Democrats Have Plans for Stimulus Package

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Senate Democrats Have Plans for Stimulus Package

Senate Democrats Have Plans for Stimulus Package

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

A tough security week for the U.S. economy. The stock market made a steep decline then staged partial rebound. Federal Reserve board made a surprising cut in a key lending rate. And the White House and Democratic leaders made a rare and quick agreement on an economic stimulus plan.

But as NPR's Brian Naylor reports, there's still another hurdle before any checks are in the mail.

BRIAN NAYLOR: The ink is barely dry on the agreement House leaders hammered out this week with the Bush administration, and already there's talk of how it might be changed in the Senate. The $150 billion stimulus plan relies on a combination of individual tax rebates and business tax cuts to spur the economy. The president, who spoke to Republican House members at their annual party retreat in West Virginia yesterday, says he thinks it's fine the way it is.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I understand the desire to add provisions from both the right and the left. I strongly believe it would be a mistake to delay or derail this bill.

(Soundbite of applause)

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

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House of the Representatives): Far be it for me to ever predict what the Senate may produce with their very senatorial rules.

NAYLOR: Already, Democratic senators are lining up with their 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 the jobless benefits, and making more people eligible for food stamps. That was a mistake, says Democratic Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania.

Senator ROBERT CASEY (Democrat, Pennsylvania): Food stamps - not just because it helps individual Americans and their families, but we know that by investing in that strategy, they will spend money quickly. That's what we need. We need people to spend money very rapidly to dig us out of the hole that we're in. Food stamps, unemployment benefits and aid to the states.

NAYLOR: Another suggestion yesterday came from Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

Senator BYRON DORGAN (Democrat, North Dakota): One of the quick ways to put people back to work and also invest in America's future to help build America is in infrastructure - roads and bridges and dams and all the things that have been deteriorating.

NAYLOR: Dorgan said the infrastructure plan he proposed 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 yesterday. He 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.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.

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