Senate Democrats to Push Through Economic Stimulus Bill
Senate Democrats are expected to try again tomorrow to seek Senate Finance Committee approval for their $90 billion economic stimulus package that would include aid to unemployed workers to cover health insurance costs, the Washington Times reports (Boyer, Washington Times, 11/7). The bill presented by Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) includes $24 billion for health care and unemployment benefits, as well as $27 billion to encourage business investment and help farmers and $5.6 billion to aid New York City and other "distressed communities" in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (Norton, CongressDaily/AM, 11/7). To "woo" Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and get the bill through the Finance committee, Democrats made some changes to the package, including moving some money from health insurance subsidies and increased state Medicaid payments to "agriculture stimulus" efforts. As yet, no Senate Republican has signed onto the plan, which makes it "doubtful" that the bill will pass the full Senate (Kessler/Edsall, Washington Post, 11/7). Baucus said, "We are going to get a bill passed. At this point it is going to be partisan" (Washington Times, 11/7). At the end of October, Senate Republicans had introduced a $89 billion plan that includes a number of tax cuts recommended by President Bush. House Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum (Pa.) and his GOP colleagues said Senate Democrats are "dragging their feet" on the stimulus issue. The House passed its stimulus package three weeks earlier. The House bill (HR 3090), which Bush supports, includes a number of tax cuts, as well as $3 billion in block grants to allow states to expand health coverage for unemployed workers. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said that he hoped the stimulus package would be on the floor next week (Earle/Norton, CongressDaily/AM, 11/7).
During a "tense session" with lawmakers yesterday, Bush warned that he would veto any legislative measure calling for emergency spending beyond the $40 billion already allocated, the Washington Post reports. Under that spending agreement, the White House has detailed how it will spend the first $20 billion and is negotiating with Congress on how to spend the second half (Milbank/Morgan, Washington Post, 11/7). Lawmakers are "eyeing" an additional $15 billion for homeland security, including money to fight bioterrorism. House Appropriations Committee ranking member David Obey (D-Wis.) said that during the meeting, lawmakers said they would like extra money for the CDC and the public health network, as well as other agencies (Boyer, Washington Times, 11/7). But Bush said, "We have ample money to meet the expectations we need to meet" (Milbank/Morgan, Washington Post, 11/7). House Speaker Dennis Hastert said, "The president feels that ... if we need more money later on, that we can do a supplemental or whatever is needed later on. But we need to be able to work through the process and see what our needs are at this time before we appropriate more money" (Boyer, Washington Times, 11/7).
In other congressional news yesterday, the Senate approved the fiscal year 2002 Labor-HHS appropriations bill, after Daschle removed a "controversial amendment" that would have allowed public safety workers to unionize (Caruso, CongressDaily/AM, 11/7). The $407 billion bill would provide "major funding increases" for medical research. In a separate action, a House-Senate agreement reached yesterday on a $112.7 billion domestic spending bill would provide an 8%, or $362 million, budget increase for the National Science Foundation. Further, the bill would increase spending on veterans' medical care by more than $1 billion (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 11/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.