ABC News’ Sunlen Miller Reports:
President Barack Obama held individual meetings on Wednesday with three leaders of a bipartisan group of moderate senators — who are now dubbing themselves the "Jobs Squad" — who are working to bring down the overall cost of the economic stimulus bill.
Following each of their private oval office meetings, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., all received the impression from their meetings with Obama that the president understands parts of the economic stimulus package, now in the Senate, need to be scrubbed to deal with non-stimulative programs in the current bill.
“He said that he understands it needs to be scrubbed,” Snowe first said as she emerged from her midday meting, “and he’s prepared to be receptive to the ideas and to revealing some of the spending measures that were included and are raised with questions whether or not they are stimulative. And he was amenable to that process.”
Nelson, following his afternoon meeting, said that the president, “recognizes some of the pieces of this package need to come out” and that for a variety of reasons “scrubbing to bring some votes on to pass the package” is necessary.
Nelson also added that he would not be supportive of the bill as it stands right now, but that he does not have to vote against it because, “it’s going to change.”
“It really is an opportunity for us to make the changes that I think need to be made to bring about the king of support that’s not there,” Nelson said of the negotiations. “There are items – such as some research items, excellent legislation, should be in the budge bill should be in omnibus legislation not part of the stimulus bill.”
Collins and Snowe said that they each submitted to Obama a list of provisions in the House bill that they believe would not stimulate the economy.
At issue specifically for Collins are items in the current bill that she would like taken out: $1 billion to upgrade facilities and info technology at the state department, $780 million for pandemic flu preparedness and $14 million cyber security.
“The house passed bill is much more like an omnibus bill than a stimulus bill," Collins said. "I believe we need to have a more targeted and affective bill for it to pass in the senate with bipartisan support.”
Snowe said that Obama was very receptive to her list and suggested that each provision within the bill should have a job creation number associated with it so its effectiveness can be scrutinized on an individual basis.
Snowe also indicated that Obama would not budge much on the overall size of the package in order to reach the proper goal.
“He thinks that it is important to have the right size stimulus plan to affect the economy,” Snowe said adding, “He understands there have been concerns…he was much aware of the discretionary expenditures that were in question.”
Snowe said that if a rigorous standard was applied to every measure and every prevision in the bill she believes it could broaden the support in the Senate.
How much non-stimulative spending must be stripped out of the bill?
Nelson said that he and the president did not talk specifically about a dollar amount.
“But I think that everybody understands that the $50 billion at least probably is the number of the kinds of things that need to be cut out of this bill to get the broad bipartition support,” Nelson said.
Collins added she was impressed by the number of Democratic senators who have expressed unease about some of the provisions in the bill.
“I am hopeful that we can put together a package that can pass either this week or this weekend.”
– Sunlen Miller