Senators reach deal to cut stimulus bill to $780B
|From left, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., meet reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, to discuss efforts by Senate Democrats to pass the economic stimulus bill in the face of strong GOP opposition.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With job losses soaring nationwide, Senate Democrats reached agreement with key Republicans Friday night on an economic stimulus measure at the heart of President Barack Obama's plan for reviving the economy.
"The American people want us to work together. They don't want to see us dividing along partisan lines on the most serious crisis confronting our country," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of two GOP senators who signaled support for the bill.
Officials put the cost of the measure at $780 billion in tax cuts and new spending combined. No details were immediately available, and there appeared to be some confusion among senators about the price tag.
The agreement capped a tense day of backroom negotiations in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, sought to attract the support of enough Republicans to give the measure the needed 60-vote majority.
In addition to Collins, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would vote for the bill.
Officials said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's vote would probably be needed for passage, too. The Massachusetts Democrat, battling a brain tumor, has been in Florida in recent days and has not been in the Capitol since suffering a seizure on Inauguration Day more than two weeks ago. The senator's office did not comment.
At $780 billion, the legislation would be smaller than the measure that cleared the House on a party-line vote last week. It also would mean a sharp cut from the bill that has been the subject of Senate debate for a week. That measure stood at $937 billion.
Beyond the numbers, though, any agreement would mark a victory for the new president and would keep Democratic leaders on track to fulfill their promise of delivering him a bill to sign by the end of next week.