Stimulus Showdown Soon — But Bill Continues to Grow

Feb 5, 2009 12:12pm

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Z. Byron Wolf, and Rick Klein Report: A final Senate vote on the stimulus bill is possible tonight. But in the meantime, despite efforts to “scrub” it of wasteful spending, it continues to grow.

The bill was $819 billion when it passed the House. It hit the Senate floor Monday at $887 billion. And after a flurry of amendments, it now stands at $920 billion.

The bill as written would also likely fail to attract 60 votes — the threshold needed to pass it. Thus the bipartisan efforts to identify savings continue, with some 16 senators meeting behind closed doors to hammer out a package of cuts.

One of those lawmakers, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said on MSNBC this morning that he has already identified more than $100 billion in spending he considers extraneous — fueling GOP arguments that the measure has gotten out of hand.

“You really did have these proposals going into the appropriations committees and people filling up buckets with projects,” Webb said. “My staff went through this thing a couple of nights ago. We found more than $100 billion of items that really don’t meet those criteria and that’s part of the debate we’re having right now. Do we add something with those, or can we take those out?"

Debate on the Senate floor is getting heated.

“This bill stinks,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “The process that brought it here stinks. Not a single Republican in the House voted for it. Maybe every Republican is just crazy, I don’t think so.”

There are still an undetermined number of amendments to be voted on, including Sen. John McCain’s alternative version of the package — a $475 billion bill that includes $275 billion in tax cuts — and a still unwritten amendment to come from the centrist group that would cut extraneous spending.

But Democratic leaders insist there is very little extraneous spending. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the so-called “pork” provisions in the bill were minuscule in relation to the 735-page bill.

“If I could do this in a symbolic way, that their measures account for one page,” Durbin said, ripping the sheet of paper. “One page of this bill. You listen to the things that they list, that they found so objectionable, they count, in dollar terms, to about one page of this bill.”

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