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WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans backed by the White House administration stated they would block an expanded $157 billion economic stimulus package being proposed by Senate Democrats last week, adding that the Senate would have no choice but to quickly adopt a cheaper, more streamlined plan approved last week by the House, the New York Times reported.
However, Democratic Senate leaders still hoped to secure changes to the House plan when they voted on it this week, and stated they remained on track to get the plan, which is made up of tax rebates and business tax breaks to spark the economy, to President Bush by Feb. 15, the report stated.
The principal changes that Senate Democrats are pushing for include eligibility for $300 rebates for tax filers living only on Social Security or veterans benefits and an expansion of home-heating subsidies, the report stated.
The House package, approved in a bipartisan vote early last week, provides tax rebates of up to $600 for individuals and up to $1,200 for couples filing jointly, along with minimum payments of $300 to individuals with at least $3,000 in earned income and an additional payment of $300 per child for families, the report stated.
Rebates would be eliminated for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000 and couples with more than $150,000, according to the report. The plan also provides short-term tax breaks for businesses to encourage spending and investment, the Times reported.
The Senate stimulus plan, which was approved by the Finance Committee last week, would cost more than $190 billion over two years, approximately $30 billion more than the House package, the report stated. Additionally, the Senate bill would provide payments of $500 to approximately 20 million low-income Americans living on Social Security benefits and 250,000 veterans dependent on government benefits, the Times reported.
"I can give you their own speech on unemployment compensation, on food stamps," Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, majority leader, told the Times on the administration. "They don't believe in them, OK? So there was no way to agree when they don't believe that food stamps are important, when they believe that if you extend unemployment benefits it only keeps people from looking for a job, which is a little hard to comprehend. So the answer is, we tried to work something out with them and we weren't able to do that."
To highlight policy differences, the Senate Democrats stated they would hold a series of votes on rival stimulus bills, most likely on Wednesday of this week, according to the report.
However, Bush; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; House Republican leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio); and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), all pushed the Senate to adopt the less expensive House plan, and quickly, the Times reported.
In addition, Senate Democrats states their changes to the package allowed them to lay out an agenda to pursue in the coming months to support their case for a Democratic president and widening their majorities in Congress, the Times reported.
The agenda includes increased benefits for the elderly and veterans; subsidies to support energy costs and home heating bills for low-income families; mortgage counseling for homeowners; extended unemployment benefits; increased food stamps; and tax credits for alternative energy sources, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Republicans argued their compromise with Pelosi was evidence Senate Democrats are the obstacle to compromise, the report stated.
"They've already conceded they are trying to make a point, not a law," Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, told the Times.