Fallout: The Financial Crisis

House, Senate have differences to solve

John Dimsdale Feb 9, 2009
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

House, Senate have differences to solve

John Dimsdale Feb 9, 2009
HTML EMBED:
COPY

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: President Obama took his bully pulpit on the road today to a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind. He spoke for a good long while about why Congress ought to pass the stimulus plan. He took some questions, too. Here’s enough to get a sense of the message he was trying to get across.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Recovery will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months. But we also know that our economy will be stronger for generations to come.

Back in Washington, meanwhile, the House and Senate are set to start negotiating away the differences between their versions of the stimulus. The two plans are about the same size. But they would do very different things to the economy. Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale has more.

JOHN DIMSDALE: To attract the Republican support needed to clear the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, Democrats have agreed to some big cuts in the House-passed stimulus bill: More than $80 billion in aid to states, $16 billion in school construction, and $18 billion from the Obama administration’s middle-class tax cuts.

Instead, the Senate bill adds money to shield middle class taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax.

Michael Ettlinger at the Center for American Progress says that won’t create many jobs.

MICHAEL ETTLINGER: It basically just continues current law, so it’s not really stimulative to the economy. It gives money mostly to higher income people who are less likely to spend it which is what we need in the economy.

Ettlinger figures, overall, the Senate version will create around 500,000 fewer jobs than the House bill. In negotiations to reconcile the different bills, Democrats say they’ll try to restore funding for state and local governments. And in Elkhart today, President Obama said he’d do the same for schools.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Over the next few days, as we’re having these conversations, we should talk about how we can make sure that we’re investing in education, because that’s what’s going to keep companies investing right here in the United States over the long term.

Congressional leaders are still aiming to have a stimulus package on the president’s desk by week’s end. As the lobbyists line up, one of the bigger job-stimulating infrastructure projects just might be the bridge that has to be built between the House and Senate bills over the next few days.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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