- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

Vice President Richard B. Cheney yesterday labeled Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle an "obstructionist" regarding the administration's economic-stimulus package.
"He's insisted that no bill can move forward unless two-thirds of the Senate Democrats support it. That's an artificially high barrier," Mr. Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The vice president and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said on network news talk shows yesterday that it is important to pass an economic-stimulus bill before the end of this year to foster economic recovery in 2002.
"The quicker we get started, the fewer people are going to lose their jobs and the faster we're going to be able to create the kind of economic growth and prosperity that will guarantee jobs for all Americans," said Mr. Cheney.
"But Tom Daschle unfortunately has decided, I think in this case, to be more of an obstructionist," the vice president said. This "artificially high barrier … may, in fact, delay action on a stimulus bill until it's too late."
Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican, shared those concerns.
"We need to fish or cut bait this week" by hammering out a stimulus bill "that's broadly supported," Mr. Lott said on "Fox News Sunday."
He urged the bipartisan leadership in Congress "to come together … and tell our negotiators, 'we need a product by 5 o'clock of this coming week.'"
But Democrats weren't backing down.
On the "obstructionist" charges: "We plead guilty," Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid said on Fox.
The Nevada Democrat went on to say, "We want a package. We're willing to do one," but he added that Democrats want to make sure it is a "good deal."
Negotiations on the legislation broke down Friday, with each side accusing the other of trying to sabotage the talks for political advantage.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, accused Mr. Daschle of acting in bad faith by requiring that any compromise measure be ratified by at least two-thirds of the Senate's Democrats. Mr. Hastert said both sides previously signed an agreement that called for a bipartisan group of six House and Senate members to finalize the deal.
In an interview Saturday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields," Mr. Daschle suggested the two-thirds figure was not fixed in stone.
"Two-thirds is a pretty good figure. Ninety percent probably isn't necessary, but something over one-half is," the South Dakota Democrat said, adding: "We don't want a majority-plus-one in our caucus on these difficult issues."
Talks probably will resume this week on a bill, which is expected to include assistance for the unemployed as well as individual and business tax relief designed to spur economic growth. The House passed its $100 billion version of a stimulus bill, which President Bush supports, in October.
On Fox, Mr. Lott said Mr. Bush already has made concessions to Democrats on issues such as unemployment insurance and health-care benefits. "But now [the Democrats] are saying, 'we don't want to do anything that might stimulate growth in the economy,'" such as tax cuts and incentives to businesses, he said.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, hailed Mr. Daschle's approach to a stimulus bill in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Mrs. Clinton said that, given the president's "high popularity rating," it would be "awfully easy" for Democrats to "shelve our doubts" and go along with a bill the president wants but which they "don't think is in America's best interest."
Many Democrats, she said, merely "don't think this is right for our nation."

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