Democratic Senators Call Economic Stimulus Deal a “First Step”

Jan 24, 2008 2:28pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Democrats in the Senate watched with interest as word of a deal between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Cali., the House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the White House on an economic stimulus package leaked out.

But they’re not signing off on anything yet.

Democrats still hope to add several elements to the package and all sound very similar to the things that Pelosi took out to woo support from House Republicans.

At an off-camera briefing with reporters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., ceded that it was a "delicate balance" that allowed Pelosi and Boehner to agree on a package that would offer a tax rebate for low and middle income workers. It also included tax breaks for businesses and temporary reform for government insured home loans.

Reid argued that what works in the House could be made better in the Senate.

"We have done everything we can to wrap our arms around this deal in the House," Reid said.

His colleague, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who chairs the Joint Economic Committee, said "It’s our job in the Senate to try and complete the picture."

How Senate Democrats choose to go about completing that picture could have consequences for the stimulus package. They want to add additional money for food stamps and unemployment insurance to the proposal, as well as between $500 million and $1 billion for a summer work program for teenagers. This all would come after the House passes its version of the stimulus package in the coming weeks.

Reid said committee chairmen in the Senate will start looking at the House deal in its present state and get started on improving it, even before it passes the House.

He added they are eyeing additional measures to allay the housing crisis, money for infrastructure projects and funding for disparate programs like the one aimed at improving nutrition among Americans.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., applauded the House deal at a press conference on Capitol Hill, but said he is looking to change it in the Senate to focus more on the lower end of the economic spectrum.

Neither Reid nor Schumer commented on how much ground Senate Democrats would lose for tacking the additional social program funding onto the stimulus package without doing away with the tax rebate or business tax credits that ultimately brokered agreement between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate in the first place.

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