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WASHINGTON -- Congress is pushing to pass a proposed $150 billion economic stimulus package, as House Democrats stated they would schedule it for a vote today -- eight days earlier than planned -- while the Senate would potentially bring the bill to a vote on Thursday, the New York Times reported.
However, a number of Senate Democrats stated they want to add to the plan, including components such as an extension of unemployment benefits and an increase of the number of eligible elderly Americans who receive payments of $300 under the package, the report stated.
Other Senate Democrats are pushing for additions including infrastructure projects like road resurfacing and expanded counseling for homeowners to help avoid foreclosures, the report stated.
Meanwhile, President Bush advised the Senate not to complicate the package, according to the report.
"Congress should move it quickly," Bush said in a speech to House Republicans at an annual retreat in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., which was cited by the Times. "I understand the desire to add provisions from both the right and the left. I strongly believe it would be a mistake to delay or derail this bill."
The House's version of the bill, which was announced last week, includes tax rebates of up to $600 for individuals, up to $1,200 for couples and an additional payment of $300 per child for families, the report stated.
In addition, taxpayers who earned at least $3,000 last year, but paid less than $300 in income taxes, would receive a $300 payment, while elderly Americans living on Social Security who do not earn $3,000 from other sources would not qualify, the report stated. The package also includes provisions for tax breaks for businesses to stimulate investment.
At the same time, Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.) the chairman of the Finance Committee, criticized the House package, stating it should extend unemployment benefits and increase food stamps. He planned to work through the weekend with his committee to create its version of the stimulus package, according to the Times report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced opposition to the measure in a speech at the National Press Club. "What was being bandied about was a 10 percent increase in food stamps," Pelosi was citied by the Times as stating. "Do you know what that translates for a person on food stamps? Ten cents a day. Ten cents a day. I thought it was more important to put a check for $1,000 in the hands of the mom of that family."
The Treasury Department has stated rebate checks could be distributed in May at the earliest, the report stated.