WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., urged lawmakers Saturday to revive a spirit of bipartisanship when the Senate considers an economic stimulus package to jolt the sagging economy.
A companion bill that passed the House, 216-214, on Wednesday was divided largely along party lines, a departure from the congressional unity on other matters since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"It is not acceptable for either party merely to dust off pre-Sept. 11 agendas and re-label them as economic stimulus," Daschle said in the weekly Democratic radio address. "Our economic health is too important to fall victim to politics or ideology."
The $100 billion economic stimulus package passed by the Republican-run House and composed almost entirely of tax cuts is likely to undergo significant change in the Democratic-led Senate, where far greater support exists for additional spending and far less for cuts in business taxes.
President Bush has praised four main elements in the House bill, which costs $99.5 billion in 2002 and $159 billion over 10 years. They include a new round of tax rebates for people who didn't get a check earlier this year; repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax; enhanced expensing write-offs for business capital assets; and acceleration of the cut in the 27 percent individual income tax rate so it falls to 25 percent in 2002, four years earlier than under current law.
Senate Democrats have said they would continue pushing a $90 billion package including more aid to the unemployed, health insurance assistance, and more spending on homeland security items than the House bill included.
Senate Republicans, on the other hand, decided to put aside the House-passed bill and stick with the four main items sought by Bush. Their plan would cost roughly $75 billion.
"Any economic stimulus package must be temporary, truly effective and fiscally responsible so as not to threaten long-term economic prosperity," Daschle said.
The Senate recessed Thursday until Tuesday without taking any concrete action on the bill. Daschle has said the stimulus package is "not as front-burner an issue" as other legislation, particularly government spending bills.
"Some in the House have chosen to advance a partisan economic stimulus proposal," Daschle said Saturday. "I believe we need to take a different approach, and achieve a better result."