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Even as President Bush cautioned against loading up the stimulus bill, the Senate was loading it up.
In a rare display of cooperation, indicating that in the eighth year of Bush’s presidency there may still be hope for bipartisanship, the White House and House Democrats agreed on a $146 billion bill consisting largely of tax rebates. The idea was for a clean, simple bill and quick passage.
With stimulus spending, speed counts, because its impact is largely psychological. Congress’ attempts at stimulus are notorious for entering the economy just as the instant financial crisis has passed.
In his State of the Union speech, Bush warned against “the temptation to load up the bill.” He didn’t specifically threaten a veto, but he did say, “That would delay or derail it and neither option is acceptable.”
Then the bill went to the Senate, which gets prickly when it thinks it’s being dictated to by the House.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has a $156 billion plan of his own that would remove the income caps of the House measure, make wealthier taxpayers eligible, extend the rebates to Social Security recipients and add extended unemployment benefits.
Other senators are poised to add heating assistance, food stamps, business-tax incentives, highway resurfacing and emergency money to prevent foreclosures.
The House can get pretty prickly itself when it thinks it’s being sandbagged by the Senate. Said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.: “I am concerned that this expansion would jeopardize the entire stimulus package.”
It’s not an idle threat. The House, with the White House looking over its shoulder, gets another crack when it meets with the Senate to reconcile differences between the two versions.
Meanwhile, it’s probably impolitic to point out that the stimulus package is basically all borrowed money.