Senate Debates $780 Billion Stimulus Deal

The agreement was spearheaded by a coalition of bipartisan senators aiming to reduce spending enough to get the Republican votes needed to pass the bill. The White House was also a chief negotiator, dispatching Rahm Emanual, the president's chief of staff, to Capitol Hill to try to shepherd a bill to sign by President's Day.

However, Sen. Reid., now may have to sell the trimmed-down bill to some Democrats, sources said as details of the deal emerged.

Senators got to the $780 billion number not only by taking out some spending programs targeted by Republicans, but also by shaving some of the broader state aid and narrowing the alternative minimum tax relief approved by the Senate earlier this week.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said that compromise is 42 percent tax cuts and 58 percent spending, according to a Reuters report.

While some Republicans and Democrats may have reached common ground with a deal, whatever bill is finally approved by the Senate must be reconciled with the $819 billion version passed in the House of Representatives with no Republican votes -- a process which promises further negotiation.

Obama Presses 'Sense of Urgency'

Earlier today, an impatient President Obama told a squabbling Congress that it would be "inexcusable and irresponsible" to delay passage of his economic stimulus bill and said the loss of nearly 600,000 jobs last month underlined the urgency of their vote.

"At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, members of the Senate are reading these same numbers this morning," said Obama today, citing statistics revealing that January brought the worst job losses since 1974.

"I hope they share my sense of urgency."

Obama called it "inexcusable and irresponsible to get bogged down in distraction and delay while millions of Americans are being put out of work."

"It is time for Congress to act," Obama said while announcing a new economic recovery advisory board. "It is time to pass an Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to get our economy moving again."

Upon exiting a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Reid's office Friday afternoon before the evening compromise was reached, a disheartened Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor that "a bill may not even pass."

"We have some who want a number lower," Schumer said. "We have some who want a number higher. And the fights are over important issues like education and health care and roads and broadband and all of the things we think we need to get this economy working again, some short-term, some long-term."

Collins likewise suggested earlier in the day that the Senate faced new hiccups. Asked how she felt about the negotiations, Collins said, "Not as good as I felt earlier."

Obama had said earlier in the week he wanted the bill passed by today, but the Senate continued to disagree over how large the bill should be, whether certain programs should be eliminated and how much of the bill should consist of tax breaks.

"Broadly speaking, the package is the right size, it is the right scope, and it has the right priorities to create 3 to 4 million jobs, and to do it in a way that lays the groundwork for long-term growth," Obama said today.

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