Politics

Senate Democrats Seek to Raise Energy, Infrastructure Investment, Keep Tax Cuts Low in Stimulus

President-elect Barack Obama's tax cut plan in his proposed $775 billion budget may be more than some Senate Democratic are willing to allow.

Members on Capitol Hill Sunday indicated they may want less in tax cuts than the president-elect.

Obama said he wants tax cuts that can help stimulate job growth. Lawmakers said Obama senior economic adviser Larry Summers, who was on Capitol Hill Sunday, has been listening carefully to their concerns, and is basing his recommendations on "evidence-based analysis."
"Job creation has to be job one," said Sen. Kent Conrad, head of the Senate Budget Committee.
Some of the tax cut buzz included in the $775 billion plan a one year patch to the alternative minimum tax, a $70 billion expense, but several Democrats said this might not be a "stimulative" addition.

Democrats want more spending for both energy and infrastructure. At least one change in the proposed economic stimulus plan -- an expanded energy tax credit provision now at $20 billion to $25 billion, up from $10 billion.

In an interview taped for ABC News on Saturday, Obama said he wants targeted tax cuts and conceded it will be difficult to enforce his pledge to ban lawmakers from including unessential "earmarked" spending projects for their districts.

"In a package of this magnitude, will there end up being certain projects that potentially don't meet that criteria of helping on health care, energy or education? Certainly," he said.

But Obama said inaction carries too great a risk.

"We can't afford three, four, five, six more months where we're losing half a million jobs per month," Obama said. "And the estimates are that if we don't do anything, we could see million jobs lost this year."

Sen. John Kerry said Summers "made a very strong argument for why the additional funds are critical for the overall economic recovery." The Massachusetts Democrat said he expects Obama to "make it clear what he wants," even though the money will have to come from the Bush administration.

The $350 billion is expected to face greater oversight in the next Congress, and Democrats are hoping to pass legislation with goals for the Targeted Assets Reinvestment Plan.

Sen. Chris Dodd, head of the Senate Banking Committee, said he is working feverishly with his counterpart in the House, Rep. Barney Frank, to get a letter from the Obama administration that lays out the conditions for use, foreclosure mitigation, lending practices, executive compensation limits and more.

"There's a greater chance of getting more votes" for an oversight package with the letter in place, he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed Sunday that the package that comes out of the lower chamber would include no earmarks and predicted the stimulus plan might exceed $775 billion

Some lawmakers have put the price tag at nearly $1 trillion.

"I think we should do the package that is necessary to turn our economy around," Pelosi said on a cable news network.

Senate Democrats were in town for a rare Sunday session and holding a special caucus meeting to talk about both Obama's stimulus plan and the controversy over seating Roland Burris as the junior senator from Illinois.

Summers arrived for the meeting on Sunday afternoon, but was left cooling his heels in the hallway for about 30 minutes, as members discussed Burris.

Democrats were expected to examine the new paperwork filed by Roland Burris, according to one member. Illinois' senior senator, Dick Durbin, the Democratic Whip, brought enough copies for all members.

One document is a re-filed certificate of appointment, signed by impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The document excludes a place for a certification and signature of Secretary of State Jesse White, something that normally appears on any such document.

The second document is a letter from White, on his letterhead, that states, "I, Jesse White, secretary of state of the state of Illinois, do hereby certify that the attached is a true and accurate copy of a certificate of appointment made by the governor of the state of Illinois and duly filed in the Office of the Secretary of State of Illinois."

White has signed this separate document. Democratic sources told FOX News it is because he refuses to affix his name on any document with Blagojevich.

What Democrats -- together with the secretary of the Senate, the Senate Parliamentarian, and Senate legal counsel -- must now determine is if these two documents make a valid appointment under Senate rules.

The Senate has never dealt with this kind of situation in history. One senior Senate Democratic aide said that outside legal experts will also need to be consulted before a final decision can be made.

Burris made clear Sunday that his lawyers are traveling to Washington to get an answer.

FOX News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.