- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

The Senate opened debate Monday on an $890 billion economic stimulus bill that may be adopted later this week.

The Senate dealt only briefly with the legislation, which is to be opened to amendments Tuesday, in order to turn to confirmation of Attorney General-designate Eric Holder.

The House passed an $819 billion stimulus bill last week without any Republican support.

President Obama, who has said he would like to sign a stimulus package by Presidents Day in two weeks, campaigned Monday for bipartisan backing for the legislation by meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican. He was to meet with the House and Senate Democratic leadership at the White House later Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said GOP members were trying to reform the bill, not block it.

“Nobody that I know of is trying to keep a package from passing,” he said in a news conference. “We’re trying to reform it.”

Sen. Don Wyden, Oregon Democrat, echoed Mr. Obama on the floor of the Senate when he called for Republican support of the bill.

“We are open to the best possible ideas,” he said. “I think we can improve on this bill more.”

The Senate version of the bill adds $70 billion to relieve working families of the alternative minimum tax and puts in another $17 billion to give $300 to seniors, the disabled and others who are not able to work.

Republicans seek more tax cuts for the middle class and businesses and lower mortgage rates so that consumers will have more disposable income.

Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican and a member of the Appropriations Committee, warned his colleagues on the Senate floor not to “rush headlong (into a stimulus bill) that will hurt us for years to come… . We stand ready to continue to improve this bill.”