A massive economic stimulus deal struck late Friday is expected to pass the Senate with limited Republican support -- but as senators gathered for a rare Saturday session to debate the details, the partisan divide loomed large.
Though a few moderate Republicans likely will vote for the stimulus plan -- which President Barack Obama today said is necessary to avoid a "national catastrophe" -- many other Republicans are furious about the deal, warning it is filled with wasteful spending that will lead to a dangerously high deficit.
"There's evidence that this is kind of a sugar high," said Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz. "We put a lot of spending out right now. But once the high is gone and you crash, you're going to be in a recession."
The Senate proposal's $827 billion price tag -- up from a $780 billion figure touted Friday -- actually is more expensive than the $819 billion bill that passed the House of Representatives without any Republican votes.
Even if the current plan passes the Senate, as expected on Tuesday, it would need to be reconciled with the House version -- a process that is not expected to be easy. Senators expect tough negotiations because House Democratic leaders are not happy with some of the Senate changes.
"Keep in mind it's approaching $1 trillion," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "It's a piece of legislation that is job creating."
The House version passed last week included more spending but fewer tax cuts. House Democratic leaders are expected to push for more spending, arguing that it is needed to get the economy moving.
Obama today, in his weekly address, said officials must "do whatever it takes to keep the promise of America alive in our time.
"Yesterday began with some devastating news with regard to our economic crisis," he said, invoking "another round of alarming employment figures -- the worst in more than 30 years. Another 600,000 jobs were lost in January. We've now lost more than 3.6 million jobs since this recession began."
Obama then warned, "If we don't move swiftly to put this plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe. Millions of Americans will lose their jobs, their homes, and their health care. Millions more will have to put their dreams on hold."
Obama also sounded a more partisan tone he's been using in recent days, describing his opponents as offering "tired old theories that, in eight short years, doubled the national debt, threw our economy into a tailspin, and led us into this mess in the first place," and "a losing formula that offers only tax cuts as the answer to all our problems while ignoring our fundamental economic challenges."
Newly named Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele slapped right back in the Republican address.
"Democrats have controlled both branches of government for less than a month -- and you have to wonder if all that power has gone to their heads," Steele said. "For the last two weeks, they've been trying to force a massive spending bill through Congress under the guise of economic relief."
Indeed, like Obama, Congressional Democrats insist the stimulus spending is necessary.