February 6th, 2009 16:13 EST
Will the sky fall without Obama Stimulus Package?
The Senate headed toward a possible vote Friday on its version of an economic stimulus bill aimed at stopping the U.S. economic decline. President Obama launched a stinging attack on Republicans still opposing the legislation, as new U.S. job loss figures put additional pressure on lawmakers.
Senate lawmakers worked through remaining amendments proposed by Republicans and Democrats, as Democratic leaders push to assure at least 60 votes required to approve the measure.
The legislation is designed to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, through spending on numerous domestic programs and tax cuts, in an attempt to jolt it out of a deepening recession.
Majority Leader Harry Reid voiced optimism for a late Friday vote, as he appealed to both parties to support President Barack Obama on the stimulus measure.
"Faced with this grave and growing crisis, as indicated by the unemployment figures that came out at 8:30 this morning, Democrats and Republicans must decide today whether they will work together and come up with a plan and join the president on this road to recovery," he said.
But partisan differences continued to be evident, even as a small group of moderate Republicans joined some Democrats behind closed doors to hammer out a compromise.
Republicans continued to assail what they call wasteful and unfocused spending, asserting that more tax cuts are need to stimulate the economy.
Senator John McCain asserted that any compromise emerging from those backroom negotiations would not be bipartisan.
"You cannot call a bill bipartisan if it has two or three or four or even five Republicans out of 535 members of Congress," he said. "You can call it an agreement but you cannot call it a bipartisan agreement and that is not what the American people want today."
Finance Committee chairman Democrat Max Baucus urged senators to bring the debate to a close.
"I urge my colleagues to allow the Senate to bring this matter to a close," he said. "I ask my colleagues now to forgo offering amendments."
But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell reiterated Republican`s main complaint about the legislation.
"Republicans are ready to support a stimulus bill, that really hasn`t been in question," he said."But we will not support an aimless spending spree that masquerades as a stimulus."
Debate took place as remarks by President Barack Obama warning about potential catastrophic continue to reverberate on Capitol Hill if the bill is not approved quickly.
Addressing House Democrats meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, the president referred to one Republican argument that the economic legislation would sharply increase the U.S. budget deficit.
"When they [Republicans] say why are we spending [$] 800 billion, we have got this huge deficit? First of all, I found this deficit [left by the Bush administration] when I showed up...," he said.
President Obama`s new aggressive tone brought a response from House Republicans, who in a statement Friday expressed disappointment with what they called his abandonment of his previous calls for bipartisanship.
If moderate Republicans and Democrats reach a compromise to trim tens of billions of dollars from the measure, now totaling about $930 billion, this could clear the way for a final vote. However, Republican opponents threatened earlier to extend debate into the weekend.
Any Senate-passed measure would have to be reconciled with an $819 billion bill that passed the House last week without Republican support.
Adding to the pressure on lawmakers were new government figures showing U.S. jobless figures climbing to their highest level since 1982.
Figures showing nearly 600,000 jobs lost in January, and left the U.S. unemployment rate at 7.6 percent.