January 31, 2008 in Nation/World

Senate balks at House stimulus package

Jonathan Weisman Washington Post
 

Alternative rebate plans

An economic stimulus bill passed the House and an alternative measure in the Senate have differing plans for giving rebates to taxpayers:

House plan: At least $300 to almost everyone earning a paycheck, including low-income earners who make too little to pay income taxes, as long as they earned at least $3,000 in 2007. People paying income taxes could receive higher rebates of up to $600 per individual and $1,200 for couples. Families with children would receive an additional $300 per child. The full rebate would be limited to individuals earning $75,000 or less and couples with incomes of $150,000 or less, but a partial rebate would go to individuals earning up to $87,000 and couples earning up to $174,000. The caps are higher for people with children.

Senate plan: $500 to almost everyone earning a paycheck, including low-income earners who make too little to pay income taxes, as long as they earned at least $3,000 in 2007. Social Security and veterans’ disability income would qualify. Couples would get $1,000, and families with children would receive an additional $300 per child. The full rebate would be limited to individuals earning $150,000 or less and couples with incomes of $300,000 or less, but a partial rebate would go to individuals earning up to $160,000 and couples earning up to $320,000. The caps are higher for people with children. Members of Congress would not receive a rebate.

WASHINGTON – With bipartisan support, the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a $157 billion economic stimulus plan that rivals the measure fashioned by President Bush and House leaders, setting up a Senate showdown today that could determine who will receive rebates from the federal government and how quickly the checks will arrive.

The Bush administration and House leaders had hoped the Senate would simply accept the stimulus plan approved by the House on Tuesday, ensuring final passage this week and mailing of the first checks by May. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will try today to block the Senate from adopting the Finance Committee plan and force the passage of the House bill instead.

That effort received a blow Wednesday when Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the influential ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, threw his weight behind the Senate alternative. Finance Committee Republicans Olympia Snowe, of Maine, and Gordon Smith, of Oregon, also backed the bill.

“Concern with timing must be weighed against the question of the quality of the House bill,” he said, singling out that plan’s failure to include as many as 20 million retirees.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is counting on Democrats to stay unified behind their leadership, and said that if enough Republicans join Grassley, a threatened filibuster by McConnell would be broken and the House and Senate would be forced into negotiations on a final stimulus bill.

But with only three Republicans on the Finance Committee voting for the package, and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., absent, Baucus’ ability to round up 60 votes to thwart a filibuster is far from certain.

Senators added provisions to the Finance Committee bill to make a “no” vote on the Senate version very difficult, offering federal stimulus checks to 20 million low-income seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans who would be ineligible under the compromise worked out by Bush and House leaders. Senators also tightened wording in the House bill to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim a check.

After the Finance Committee vote, AARP launched a lobbying push to win passage of the Senate version. Advocates of the Senate bill said House-Senate talks should take a few days.


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