Senate Debates $780 Billion Stimulus Deal

After hammering out a deal on a now-$780 billion stimulus package this evening, Senate leaders believe they have a bill that likely can pass a Senate vote some time in the coming days.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. said he will start the process toward a cloture vote on the stimulus Monday.

"We recognize that our plan isn't perfect," Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a key negotiator on the deal, told his fellow senators. "But I believe it's both responsible and realistic. It's stimulative and timely. It can help deliver economic recovery to the American people soon."

Nelson said negotiators went through the once-approximately-$900 billion package line by line to make tens of billions in cuts.

VIDEO: Stimulus: Obama Gets Pushback From Dems
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"We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows," Nelson told the Senate, as it debated the revised bill into the evening.

The deal is expected to draw two or more Republican votes into the Democratic caucus to reach 60 votes or more -- the number needed to avoid a Republican filibuster.

Two Republican moderates, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said this was a time for the Senate to come together.

"This debate is not about Republicans or about Democrats, it's not about our young president winning or losing, its about the American people," Collins said. "The American people don't want to see partisan gridlock."

Video of ABC News Nows Politics Live program discussing Obamas selling of the stimulus.
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"We have reduced the expenditures by $145 billion -- that's a lot of money," added Specter, pointing out that much of the money that will be cut was meant for popular programs, including tens of billions for education spending.

But their Republican colleagues questioned whether the minimal support from Republicans really was bipartisan.

"There are 40 Republican senators here," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "We now have two -- count them, two -- who have decided behind closed doors.

"I've been involved in a lot of bipartisan legislation around here," he added, "but I guarantee you, this is not bipartisan."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed doubts about whether the Senate bill really is pared down, considering tax cuts for house and auto purchases that senators added this week before making today's cuts.

"Even after those efforts, it is still roughly the same size as the [$819 billion] House bill," he said, guessing that the Senate version could rise to $827 billion with amendments.

"This is an extraordinary amount of money and a crushing debt for our grandchildren," McConnell said.

But the Obama White House has been pushing for senators to pass a stimulus bill, and tonight applauded the new compromise.

"On the day when we learned 3.6 million people have lost their jobs since this recession began, we are pleased the process is moving forward and we are closer to getting Americans a plan to create millions of jobs and get people back to work," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Weekend Vote After Day of Negotiations

There likely will be no vote on the bill tonight -- but more likely on Saturday or Sunday after further negotiation and debate. It's possible the final vote may slip to Monday.

However, officials emerging from a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting on the deal before the Senate debate were optimistic.

"I am pleased with this," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "This is a strong package."

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