Archive for the ‘Ben Nelson’ Category

Stimulus: Senate Deal Announced; $827 Billion

February 7, 2009

With job losses soaring nationwide, Senate Democrats reached agreement with a small group of Republicans Friday night on an economic stimulus measure at the heart of President Barack Obama‘s plan for combatting the worst recession in decades.

The American people want us to work together. They don’t want to see us dividing along partisan lines on the most serious crisis confronting our country,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of three Republican moderates who broke ranks and pledged their votes for the bill.

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

Democratic leaders expressed confidence that the concessions they had made to Republicans and moderate Democrats to trim the measure had cleared the way for its passage. No final vote was expected before Monday.

Officials put the cost of the bill at $827 billion, including Obama’s signature tax cut of up to $1,000 for working couples, even if they earn too little to pay income taxes. Also included are breaks for homebuyers and people buying new cars. Much of the new spending would be for victims of the recession, in the form of unemployment compensation, health care and food stamps.

Republican critics complained that whatever the cost, billions were ticketed for programs that would not create jobs.

In a key reduction from the bill that reached the Senate floor earlier in the week, $40 billion would be cut from a “fiscal stabilization fund” for state governments’ education costs, though $14 billion to boost the maximum for college Pell Grants by $400 to $5,250 would be preserved, as would aid to local school districts for the No Child Left Behind law and special education.

A plan to help the unemployed purchase health insurance would be reduced to a 50 percent subsidy instead of two-thirds.

The agreement capped a tense day of backroom negotiations in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, sought to attract the support of enough Republicans to give the measure the needed 60-vote majority. Democrats hold a 58-41 majority in the Senate, including two independents.

Uncertain of the outcome of the talks, Democrats called Sen. Edward M. Kennedy back to Washington in case his vote was needed. The Massachusetts senator, battling brain cancer, has been in Florida in recent days and has not been in the Capitol since suffering a seizure on Inauguration Day more than two weeks ago.

In addition to Collins, Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia Snowe of Maine pledged to vote for the legislation.

Whatever the price tag, the compromise marked a victory for the new president, who has veered between calls for bipartisanship and increasingly strong criticism of Republicans in recent days. And it indicated that Democratic leaders remain on track to deliver a bill to the White House by the end of next week.

Late Friday night, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “On the day when we learned 3.6 million people have lost their jobs since this recession began, we are pleased the process is moving forward and we are closer to getting Americans a plan to create millions of jobs and get people back to work.”

Obama said earlier in the day that further delay would be “inexcusable and irresponsible” given Friday’s worst monthly unemployment report in a generation — 598,000 jobs lost in January and the national unemployment rate rising to 7.6 percent. And late Friday, federal regulators announced the closures of three banks, First Bank Financial Services in Georgia and Alliance Bank and County Bank in California, raising to nine the number of bank failures this year.

“The world is waiting to see what we’re going to do in the next 24 hours,” said Reid who has spent much of the week trying to balance demands among moderates in both parties against pressure for a larger bill from liberals in his own rank and file.

By midday, the majority leader had spoken once with Obama by phone and five times with Emanuel. He met with Collins and Specter as well as Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Nebraska Democrat who had long advocated cuts in the House-passed bill.

Later, Nelson declared on the Senate floor, “We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows.” He said the compromise included $350 billion in tax cuts that would reach 95 percent of all Americans.

One Republican-proposed document that circulated earlier called for cuts of $60 billion from money Democrats want to send to the states. That money is targeted to avoid budget cuts for schools as well as law enforcement and other programs.

Talk of cuts in proposed education funds triggered a counterattack from advocates of school spending as well as unhappiness among Democrats.

One, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, told reporters he and others hoped that some of the funds on the chopping block would be restored next week when negotiations open on a House-Senate compromise.

At its core, the legislation is designed to ease the worst economic recession in generations, and combines hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending with tax cuts. Much of the money would go for victims of the recession in the form of food stamps, unemployment compensation and health care. There are funds, as well, for construction of highways and bridges.

But the administration also decided to use the bill to make a down payment on key domestic initiatives, including creation of a new health technology industry and so-called green jobs designed to make the country less dependent on imported oil.

And Democrats in Congress decided to add additional huge sums for the states struggling with the recession, as well as billions more for favored programs such as parks, the repair of monuments in federal cemeteries, health and science research and more.

With Obama enjoying post-inauguration support in the polls and the economy shrinking, Democratic leaders in Congress have confidently predicted they would have a bill to the president’s desk by mid-February.

But Republicans, freed of the need to defend former President George W. Bush‘s policies, have pivoted quickly to criticize the bill for its size and what they consider wasteful spending.

The entire Republican rank and file voted against the measure in the House, effectively prodding senators to take up the same cause.

In the intervening days, Republicans have appeared to catch the administration and its allies off-guard, holding up relatively small items for ridicule and routinely seizing on comments from Democrats critical of the House-passed bill.

At the same time, they have stressed a desire to help the economy but have said they prefer tax cuts and spending that would have a more immediate impact on job creation.

Privately, Democrats in Congress have been critical of Obama and his aides for failing to counter the Republicans more effectively. In recent days, the president has sharpened his rhetoric against unnamed critics of the bill whom he accused of trying to re-establish the “failed policies” of the past eight years.

Despite the struggle, some Republicans seemed to sense the White House would ultimately prevail, and sought political mileage.

Obama “could have had a very, very impressive victory early on,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who heads the Senate Republican campaign committee. “But this is not turning out to be an impressive victory. it is turning out to be a little bit of a black eye.”

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Erica Werner, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Liz Sidoti and Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

Bipartisan Push to Trim Size of Stimulus Plan

February 6, 2009

A bipartisan group of senators worked furiously in backroom negotiations on Thursday to cut the cost of the more than $920 billion economic stimulus plan. Senate Democratic leaders said they would await the outcome of those talks before calling for a final vote on the measure, perhaps on Friday.

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
The New York Times

Members of the bipartisan group, led by Senators Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said they wanted to trim provisions that would not quickly create jobs or encourage spending by consumers and businesses. They spent much of the day scrutinizing the 736-page bill and wrangling over what to cut.

By early evening, aides said the group had drafted a list of nearly $90 billion in cuts, including $40 billion in aid for states, more than $14 billion for various education programs, $4.1 billion to make federal buildings energy efficient and $1.5 billion for broadband Internet service in rural areas. But they remained short of a deal, and talks were expected to resume Friday morning.

“We’re trying to focus it on spending that truly helps stimulate the economy,” Ms. Collins said. “People have different views on whether or not a program meets that test. So we’re continuing to talk. We get close, and then it drops back, and then we get close again.”

President Obama, while once again urging Congress to act swiftly, avoided taking sides by saying that a package of about $800 billion was in the ballpark of what he believed the economy needed.

“The scale and scope of this plan is right,” Mr. Obama said in a speech to House Democrats who were on a retreat in Williamsburg, Va.

“If we do not move swiftly,” the president said, “an economy that is in crisis will be faced with catastrophe.” He added, “Millions more Americans will lose their jobs. Homes will be lost. Families will go without health care. Our crippling dependence on foreign oil will continue. That is the price of inaction.”

The White House announced that Mr. Obama would make a televised speech to the nation about the economy on Monday night.

The Senate debate took place on the eve of the release of January jobs data. Economists expect the national unemployment rate to hit 7.5 percent, and to reach double digits in some industrial states. Last week, almost 4.8 million people collected unemployment insurance, the highest weekly number in 40 years.

The majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, said he believed that Democrats could muscle the stimulus bill through with at least two Republican votes. But late Thursday he said he would give the bipartisan group until Friday to reach a deal. If no deal is reached, he said he would call for procedural vote on Sunday aimed at moving to final vote.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/0
6/us/politics/06stimulus.html?_r=1&hp

Stimulus Passage? Obama Says “Cautiously Optimistic” But Some Dem Senators Wonder

February 5, 2009

“We will have the votes,” said a senior administration official on the prospects for the passage of the stimulus bill in the U.S. Senate.

But in a closed door meeting with senators Wednesday President Obama would only say he was “cautiously optimistic.”

Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) said, “I’m not sure we have the votes.”

Where’s Harry Reid?

U.S. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid speaks on Capitol Hill ...
U.S. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington February 3, 2009.REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)

CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITIC
S/02/05/stimulus/index.html

Related:
Obama Was Cheated: House Stimulus a Nancy Pelosi Crime

Democratic Senator Calls Resignations from Obama Team “Awkward, Embarrassing, Troublesome”

February 3, 2009

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said today the resignation of two of President Obama’s nominees for top government posts was “awkward, embarrassing and troublesome.”

He said the vetting process for top jobs was “robust” but good people can still be forced to drop out.

“The process is working,” Nelson said.  “No one person is indispensible.”

Ben Nelson

Warning that a deep economic recession must be prevented from  “going into a depression,” Sen. Ben Nelson said Tuesday it’s urgent to stimulate job creation and protection.

“We can’t afford the old games of division and partisan politics,” the Democratic senator said.

What the country faces is “the most severe economic downturn in decades, and perhaps ever,” he warned.

“It’s a tough vote,” Nelson acknowledged, because people are “worried about borrowing money to stimulate the economy.”

Related:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/02/03/
daschle-withdraws/

 Daschle Out; Major Obama Setback

 Daschle Passes Point of No Return; Now Major Embarrassment to Obama

Obama Week 3: Senate Poised to Defeat Stimulus?

February 1, 2009

“As it stands it would be very hard for me to vote for this package, because I don’t think it is fully targeted, timely and temporary,” Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) said. “I think there is widespread dissatisfaction with the package that came over from the House.”

Both Democratic Senator Kent Conrad and Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson seem ready to join with Senate Republicans against the House version of the stimulus….

“Too little is being done about housing, which is central to the crisis,” said Conrad.

***************

Republicans suggested overhauling the Senate’s stimulus proposal because they said it doesn’t pump enough into the private sector through tax cuts but allows Democrats to go on a spending spree unlikely to jolt the economy.

“When I say start from scratch, what I mean is that the basic approach of this bill, we believe, is wrong,” said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican. He added that he was seeing an erosion of support for the bill.

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer

In this photo provided by CBS, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., ... 
In this photo provided by CBS, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appears on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009.(AP Photo/CBS Face the Nation, Karin Cooper)

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he doubted the Senate would pass the bill, contending that Democrats as well as Republicans were uneasy with it. He renewed a Republican complaint that Democrats had not been as bipartisan in writing the bill as Obama had said he wanted.

“I think it may be time … for the president to kind of get a hold of these Democrats in the Senate and the House, who have rather significant majorities, and shake them a little bit and say, ‘Look, let’s do this the right way,'” McConnell said. “I can’t believe that the president isn’t embarrassed about the products that have been produced so far.”

Democrats defended their almost $819 billion version of President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, which is set for debate this week, and said they were open to considering changes by Republicans. But they said the unrelentingly bleak economic news demanded action.

“We cannot delay this,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democrats’ No. 2 leader. “We can’t engage in the old political rhetoric of saying, ‘Well, maybe it could be a little bit better here and a little bit better there.’ We’ve got to pull together.”

A bank employee counts US dollar bank notes. The euro fell sharply ...

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., agreed that more could be done in the area of housing, though he said tapping money in the separate financial bailout fund would be a more likely way to pay for mortgage relief.

Under Obama’s plan, strained state budgets would receive a cash infusion, projects for roads and other infrastructure would be funded, and “green jobs” in the energy sector would be created. In its centerpiece tax cut, single workers would gain $500 and couples $1,000, even if they don’t earn enough to owe federal income taxes.

Among the major changes Kyl said would be needed to gain Republican support in the Senate was the tax rebate for individuals and couples, which he criticized as going to too many people who didn’t pay the tax to start with. He also criticized the bill for seeking to create nearly three dozen government programs and giving states far more money than they need.

Durbin argued that $1 out of every $3 in the bill goes to tax cuts and defended it as aimed at helping working families. While he contended that Democrats were “very open” to Republican proposals, he cited only what he said were calls for more money in job-creating public works projects, typically a Democratic priority.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., characterized the proposal as “a spending plan. It’s not a stimulus plan. It’s temporary, and it’s wasteful.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009020
1/ap_on_go_co/congress_stimulus

Related:
Economic Stimulus About “Soul of America”
.
Forbes Pleads For Bank Bailout, “Banks Are the Heart of the Financial System”

Here’s What $800 Billion Stimulus Means to America as We Knew It

Fox News:
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/first100days/200
9/02/01/stimulus-heavy-spending-say-growing-nu
mber-senators/

http://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2009/02/01
/a-stimulating-limbaugh-lesson-and-battles-in-
afghanistan-and-tampa/