Negotiators Turn to School Construction Funds

By Teri Finneman

Feb 11, 2009 9:45am

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reports: Democratic Congressional leaders and White House officials huddled in Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol Hill offices until after midnight last night, attempting to come to final agreement on an $800 billion economic recovery bill.  Meetings resume later this morning. Officials involved in the talks say they have made significant progress and are on track to finish their work before the end of the week, and possibly by tonight. One of the toughest issues has been direct funding to the states — the so-called State Fiscal Stability Fund.  In the House bill there was $79 billion for this; the Senate compromise cut it to $39 billion.  According to one negotiator, the House has reluctantly agreed to the lower Senate number. School construction is now a central topic of negotiation.  The Senate eliminated all $16 billion in school construction; now negotiators are trying to find a way to put it back in without increasing the overall cost of the bill.  One possibility: scaling back Obama’s middle class tax cut. By the way, there still has not been a single meeting of the House-Senate conference committee, which is officially responsible for this negotiation.  The conference committee may meet today, but probably only if the deal is done or almost done. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been a major player in these meetings, shuttling back-and-forth across the Capitol building as he and Harry Reid met with House leaders in the Speaker’s office (House side) and with moderates Snowe, Collins, Nelson, Lieberman, et al., in Reid’s office (Senate side).  Reid needs to be sure the moderates will support whatever deal is struck with the House. Collins has been pushing for a lower price tag; she wants it to be $786 billion (where she got that number is anybody’s guess).

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