House leaders to discuss economic stimulus bill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, are taking the lead in Capitol Hill negotiations, with the centerpiece of the measure expected to be a tax rebate similar to the $300-$600 checks sent out in the summer of 2001.
A host of senior lawmakers in both parties met on Tuesday with President Bush, who has proposed a stimulus plan worth about $150 billion. He again expressed optimism that his administration can reach quick agreement with Congress.
“I believe we can find common ground to get something done that’s big enough, effective enough so that an economy that is inherently strong gets a boost – to make sure that this uncertainty doesn’t translate into more economic woes for our workers and small business people,” Bush said in the Cabinet Room.
Pelosi, Boehner and Paulson scheduled a breakfast meeting Wednesday at the Capitol to try to make more concrete progress than has been made thus far. In the only major development Tuesday, Senate leaders Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to stand back and let the House take the lead in the talks with the administration.
In the Senate, Reid said in an interview, “There are too many cooks in the kitchen. Send something over to us and we’ll try to move it as quickly as we can.”
Perhaps the most important obstacle to overcome is differences of opinion over who should receive rebate checks. Democrats want to deliver help to low-income workers who may not pay income taxes because they make too little or benefit from tax credits such as the child tax credit.
Thus far, talks have focused on setting the parameters of a bill combining rebates with GOP-sought tax breaks for businesses, as well as Democratic-backed help for the unemployed and those on food stamps.
Both sides have seemed to negotiate in good faith. Republicans and Bush declined to insist on extending Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that expire in three years, while Democrats offered up tax breaks for business and limited their roster of spending proposals. Democrats also agreed to waive budget rules requiring tax increases to finance the measure.