Rival Economic Stimulus Bills Likely to Die in Senate
A "bitterly divided Senate" is expected to "shelve" rival versions of an economic stimulus package -- both containing health provisions -- during crucial procedural votes today, the Los Angeles Times reports (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 2/6). On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) filed a cloture motion -- which requires 60 votes to pass -- to end debate on a compromise bill that he introduced last month and bring the legislation to a vote (California Healthline, 2/5). Daschle said that he did not expect the cloture motion to pass, which effectively would kill his bill because he would then pull it from consideration (Stevenson, New York Times, 2/6). The legislation, a "slimmed-down version" of an economic stimulus bill that Senate Democrats proposed last year, does not include a provision in the original bill to help unemployed workers purchase health insurance through COBRA. COBRA, the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, allows unemployed workers to retain health coverage under their former employers' insurance plans by paying 102% of the premiums. The bill does include money to help states "cope with rising costs in Medicaid" and a number of provisions targeted at unemployed workers and businesses (California Healthline, 1/7).
Daschle also scheduled a cloture vote today for a GOP-sponsored economic stimulus bill that passed the House last year. However, he and Senate Republicans agreed that the legislation would not "draw the 60 votes needed" to pass the motion, which effectively would kill that bill, too (Los Angeles Times, 2/6). The House bill, which President Bush supports, would provide individual tax credits to cover 60% of the cost of private health insurance for unemployed workers. The legislation also includes tax provisions targeted at businesses and individuals (California Healthline, 12/20/01). Daschle said Republicans were responsible for the demise of stimulus legislation. "I've made every effort I can think of to find common ground," he said (Kirchoff, Boston Globe, 2/6). "Republicans have spent over two weeks blocking" the legislation, Daschle added (Hosler,
Baltimore Sun, 2/6). "I don't think there's any question they don't want a stimulus package unless it's their stimulus package," he concluded (Kessler, Washington Post, 2/6). Republicans, however, said Democrats were at fault. "The Daschle Democrats, in a cynical effort to score political points against this president, have chosen to fire a shot into a limping economy by killing the economic stimulus package," Sen. Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said (Boyer, Washington Times, 2/6). A "very disappointed" Bush yesterday urged Congress not to abandon an economic stimulus bill this year (McQuillan, USA Today, 2/6). Democrats and Republicans "insisted they were prepared to continue negotiations to revive" the issue later this year (Los Angeles Times, 2/6). However, congressional staff members said that the votes today will likely end "any chance of stimulus this year" (Guinto, Investor's Business Daily, 2/6). The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the failure to pass an economic stimulus bill would help improve Bush's fiscal year 2003 budget estimate. Bush has requested $77 billion for economic stimulus legislation in his FY 2003 budget -- a figure that is equal to "practically the entire $80 billion" estimated deficit (Kuhnhenn, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/6).