WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed Thursday to press ahead with a Democratic plan to inject more than $50 billion or so into the economy, despite opposition from the White House and moderates in her own party.
"The worsening economy demands another bipartisan economic recovery effort," Pelosi wrote in a letter delivered to President Bush Thursday evening.
Just hours earlier, the California Democrat had seemed pessimistic about the chances for a second stimulus bill to follow on the tax rebates enacted in February. She told reporters that it would only advance after Democrats attempt to put some of the more popular components on a budget bill Congress must pass in the next two weeks.
"We'll see what we can get" in that bill, Pelosi told reporters. "And then we'll see where we go from there." The "continuing resolution" is necessary to keep the government running after Sept. 30.
"Let's face it, we can only have a stimulus if the president will sign it," Pelosi added.
Later, Pelosi renewed her vow to try to pass a stimulus measure that would combine billions of dollars for jobs-producing infrastructure projects, more food stamps, additional Medicaid aid to states, home heating subsidies and a further extension of unemployment insurance.
Prospects for the bigger Democratic stimulus measure remained bleak, however, given the opposition of President Bush and Senate Republicans, as well as from moderate-to-conservative House Democrats who object to borrowing the money to pay for it.
"I'm very skeptical," said conservative Democrat Gene Taylor of Mississippi.
Democratic leaders held out hope that the continuing struggles of the economy might prompt Bush to reconsider his opposition to a second stimulus measure. But if not, Democrats would at least benefit politically from witnessing Republicans and Bush block the initiative.
Some of the items listed by Pelosi, including a second extension of unemployment benefits and an increase in heating subsidies for the poor, could win approval as part of the year-end budget bill. A plan to deliver $25 billion in low-interest federal loans to the auto industry also appears virtually certain to catch a ride on the year-end budget bill.
Democrats hope that the stopgap spending bill will also carry about $20 billion in disaster aid, as well annual appropriations bills funding the Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments. A plan to attach an almost $500 billion Pentagon funding bill seemed to be faltering, however.
The White House and congressional Republicans say that the spending bill should lift a quarter-century ban on oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. House Democrats passed a bill Tuesday that would allow drilling 50 miles from the coastline. Republicans called it a ruse, saying most of the offshore oil is within 50 miles.