Dem Frustration Mounts Over Stimulus Stalling

By Teri Finneman

Feb 11, 2009 1:05pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: Reporters are camped outside Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office, where an evolving cast of negotiators from the White House and the Senate are finalizing the stimulus behind closed doors. Moderate Democrat and negotiator Ben Nelson of Nebraska emerged with some very zen updates on the negotiations: "You never really know how close you are until you get to the end," he said of the timing. Of cutting the minority out of negotiations thus far: "That’s why Nebraska has a unicameral legislature. No conference committees." Of the final bill and whether everyone will be happy: "There will be changes. The categories have been known. People who are going to be critical are going to be critical because — fill in the blank." Some of the critical people are Democrats. As the stimulus deal starts to come together amid these closed-door meetings, a number of Democrats who have specific interests that were cut in the Senate compromise are airing their frustrations. They sound just as frustrated as Republicans, although they will likely vote for the finished product. Sen. Tom Harkin told reporters in the Capitol that the final negotiated bill won’t put too much education money back in. And that’s upsetting him. "Every school in America will get 10,000 bucks if they’re lucky," Harkin said, wryly observing that the amount of might be enough to buy two energy-efficient windows. "And what’s that going to do for them?" he asked. "We’re trying to add new heating facilities. We’re trying to add renovations. And doing it by formula doesn’t do it." He lamented that funding to fight preventable diseases that he had helped shepherd into an earlier version of the bill was being cut in the compromise version. "5.8 down to a billion, there you go," said a clearly frustrated Harkin. Will the bill be passed later this week? "It looks like that’s what’s going to happen," he said. "I’m just dismayed at the process. I think that we on our side caved in too much in order to appease a few people. I just think we should have held strong on some of these things and seen if we could have passed it. If not, then you come back and try to fix it." How would you have gotten it passed, he was asked? "Let them vote against it. See what the public outcry would be if they stopped this. The public is on our side. They want the money. We gotta get it out there. We gotta get it out there in good measure," Harkin said. "And yet we didn’t really kind of hold the line on it and see where the votes are. Make them filibuster. I think the people are getting shortchanged. We should have a better allocation of this money as it goes out."

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