Senator Chuck Grassley is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and that panel will begin debating the federal economic stimulus package today. Democrats in the Senate plan to press for adding an extension of unemployment benefits and heating assistance for the poor onto the bill, but President Bush has said that’s not in the agreement he struck with Democrats in the House.
Grassley says a deal may be in the works. "There is some effort on the part of Democratic chairman (of the Senate Finance Committee) to work with me and other Republicans to broaden it so it’s not just increased spending," Grassley says. According to Grassley, there are items Republicans would like to see added to the package such as ensuring an additional 20 million senior citizens get a rebate.
Grassley says Republicans also would like to see the "cap" raised as the House plan Bush has agreed to would only give tax rebates to individual American taxpayers whose annual income is $75,000 or less. "With those changes, you could have a bipartisan agreement," Grassley says. "Now, that bipartisan agreement isn’t there for certain yet, but there’s a good chance it could be and maybe even within the next 24 hours that would be a fact, but I’ll just have to take a step at a time."
The U.S. House is expected to vote on the economic stimulus package it has worked out with the president today, too. It includes about 100-billion dollars in direct payments to Americans to try to boost consumer spending and another 50-billion dollars worth of accelerated depreciation for businesses to try to spur job growth and business investment.
Grassley says it appears workable to add onto that package with a combination of spending — which the Democrats in the Senate seek — and more tax benefits — which Grassley and other Republicans in the Senate want. "So the basic structure does not have to be compromised, but changing it a little bit might make it more bipartisan in the Senate and (help the package) move forward," Grassley says.