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Senate fails to support broad stimulus package in procedural vote  

The US Senate this evening rejected a broad economic stimulus bill in a procedural vote, as it failed to muster the 60 members needed to end debate on the bill and allow a final vote later this week.

The 58-41 vote tonight marks a defeat for Senate Democrats who insisted on a broader stimulus bill than what the Bush administration negotiated with House members. Industry sources and others said support for the Senate bill in the procedural vote would have indicated a strong likelihood of passage in the final vote.

After the defeat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he would talk with Republicans about what steps he would take next to pass a stimulus bill.

Last week, Senate Democrats indicated that if there was not enough support for the Senate bill, it would likely take up the House bill and consider various amendments to that bill to make it closer to the Senate bill.

The Senate bill, which costs about 158 bln usd, would offer tax rebates to taxpayers, but also to low-income individuals and families that do not pay taxes, and recipients of Social Security and veterans benefits. The House bill, which costs 146 bln usd, only allows refund checks to wage earners.

Senate Republicans this week offered to vote on the House bill with an amendment to allow seniors and veterans to receive a rebate, but no other additions.

The Democrats’ broader stimulus package bill would also extend unemployment insurance, allow companies to backdate operating losses to prior years, fund state and local efforts to refinance mortgages, and offer a range of energy-related tax breaks for companies and individuals. The House bill does not include any of this language.

Reid tonight implored his colleagues at the start of the vote to support the broader Senate bill, which he said makes needed improvements to the House bill.

‘They took a good plan and made one much better,’ Reid said of efforts by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana. ‘We have an obligation to do what we think is best to stimulate the economy.’

Earlier today, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson again asked members of the Senate to act on the House bill, and said he feared that more efforts would be made to attach additional language to the measure that could slow it down.

‘I am increasingly concerned that in the Senate the bazaar is open, the special interests are coming to the trough,’ Paulson said. However, he did not say the White House would veto the stimulus bill over any specific addition, and indicated later that any differences between the House and Senate bills could be worked out later.

Thomson Financial


6 February 2008

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