House Passes Revised Economic Stimulus Bill
The House passed an economic stimulus bill proposed by House Republican leaders on a 224-193 vote early this morning after a debate that lasted until about 4 a.m. ET, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Anderson, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20). The legislation, a revised version of an economic stimulus bill passed by the House in October, includes about $33 billion to extend unemployment benefits and help unemployed workers purchase health insurance, up from $13 billion in the original House bill. In addition, the bill would provide an individual tax credit that would cover 60% of the cost of private health insurance for unemployed workers. The bill also includes a number of tax provisions targeted at businesses and individuals (Anderson, AP/Nando Times, 12/19).
Strategists in both parties said that the revised House bill has "no chance" of becoming law (Kessler/Eilperin, Washington Post, 12/20). The bill faces "dismal odds" in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where most Democrats "remain strongly opposed" to the tax credit provision in the legislation, the Wall Street Journal reports (Murray/McKinnon, Wall Street Journal, 12/20). Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) yesterday "declared the plan all but dead" (Welch/Keen, USA Today, 12/20). House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) agreed that "any economic stimulus bill was doomed for this year" (O'Rourke, Scripps McClatchy Western Service/Nando Times, 12/19). Democrats say that the tax credit proposal would "leave unemployed workers little leverage" with insurers, and have "demanded subsidies be delivered" through employer-sponsored health plans (American Health Line, 12/19). They also said that the plan represents a "step toward dismantling the system of employer-provided health insurance" (Hosler, Baltimore Sun, 12/19). "We don't think a tax credit alone will effectively deliver the aid that's needed," House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) said (Guinto, Investor's Business Daily, 12/20). Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said of the tax credit proposal, "Calling it 'health insurance' is like putting lipstick on a pig" he said (Boyer/Sammon, Washington Times, 12/20).
President Bush yesterday "made a rare visit" to Capitol Hill to "rally" Republicans to vote for the revised House GOP bill and met with a few Democrats who have agreed to support the proposal (Washington Post, 12/20). Bush hoped to "ratchet up pressure" on Daschle -- who has "refused to allow a vote" on the bill in the Senate -- to schedule a vote (Washington Times, 12/20). After the visit to Congress, Bush "claimed to have a deal" with lawmakers on the revised House bill. He said, "It's got enough votes to pass the Senate" (DeFrank/Bazinet, New York Daily News, 12/20). However, only three Senate Democrats -- Sens. John Breaux (D-La.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Zell Miller (D-Ga.) -- have agreed to support the House legislation, which would not "bring along enough Democrats" to obtain the 60 votes needed to overcome a "procedural hurdle" and pass the 60-vote "procedural hurdle" the bill would face in the Senate (Stevenson, New York Times, 12/20). The three lawmakers who support the House bill have "been unsuccessful so far in adding to their ranks" in the Senate (Wall Street Journal, 12/20). Lawmakers said at least one Senate Republican plans to vote against the bill, and that two are expected to be absent (Washington Post, 12/20). Ronald Bonjean, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), said that Senate Republicans will call for a vote on the House bill "repeatedly" today (Washington Times, 12/20).