September 26, 2008 in Nation/World

Democrats unveil stimulus plans

By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Top Senate Democrats on Thursday unveiled a $56 billion plan to stimulate the economy, including proposals to extend unemployment benefits and help states pay for Medicaid.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., released the spending-heavy measure. A vote could occur as early as today.

With most Republicans opposed, however, the Reid-Byrd stimulus plan measure is likely to stall. Democrats are then likely to hold the vote against Republicans in the campaign for control of Congress.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that chamber would probably take up a similarly sized economic stimulus plan as early as today, but no proposal was released and a vote appeared unlikely. Conservative Democrats have qualms about its impact on the budget deficit.

Also in line with a Senate vote expected Saturday is a $630 billion-plus spending bill funding the Pentagon, providing $25 billion in federal loans to automakers and $23 billion in help for victims of floods in the Midwest and Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The Reid-Byrd stimulus plan has been in the works for weeks as Democrats have kept promising an eventual vote on an economic stimulus bill to follow on the tax rebates sent out to most taxpayers earlier this year.

But President Bush has never bought into the idea that a second stimulus measure is needed, and Democrats haven’t seemed to take the idea very seriously, either, unveiling the measures only in the waning days of the congressional session despite talking about it for months.

In fact, many Democrats are frustrated that their leaders refused to attach an extension of unemployment benefits to the must-pass measure keeping the government running and funding the Pentagon. That measure steamrolled through the House Wednesday by a veto-proof margin of 370-58.

The Senate stimulus measure provides $6 billion to extend unemployment benefits by seven weeks in all states and by 13 weeks in states with high jobless rates. It also contains almost $20 billion to increase federal payments to states for the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.

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