- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

Despite White House concessions in recent days, Democratic leaders yesterday gave a less than hearty reception to President Bush's pleas that Congress pass an economic stimulus package before its Christmas recess.
"Time is running out, but we're going to make our best effort in the next 48 hours to do all that we can to see if we can reach an agreement," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said.
"We don't have a lot more opportunities here to resolve our differences, but I'm still somewhat hopeful that we can resolve them in time to get this job done."
Major differences remain, even though Mr. Bush agreed Tuesday to scale back the size of his proposed corporate and individual tax cuts and increase federal assistance for the unemployed.
While both sides expressed optimism a compromise can be worked out before Congress adjourns for the holidays, Republicans said privately the White House meeting was not productive.
One aide said Mr. Daschle continued to add components as the White House offered to acquiesce on other measures.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer vented frustration over the Senate's inability to act exactly 50 days since the House passed a stimulus package with bipartisan support.
"I don't know what more a president can do. There is a bipartisan majority of senators who support the proposal the president has made. The logjam is in the Senate leadership, which needs to schedule a vote rather than obstruct the bipartisan majority of the Senate," Mr. Fleischer said.
Mr. Bush himself, who met with his economic team and top Senate leaders yesterday at the White House, said he is confident the bill will pass if it comes to a vote.
"We agree that there is enough votes to get a good package out of the Senate, a package that I think will help our economy, a package that these Democrats and Republicans think will help workers and the economy," the president said. "And I am hopeful that with good work with the people around this table and with the leadership out of the Senate and the House, that we'll get a good package."
Mr. Bush on Tuesday offered Senate Democrats a deal on his $210 billion proposed economic stimulus package. Under the plan:
The corporate alternative minimum tax would now be scaled back rather than repealed outright.
The acceleration of individual income-tax rate cuts would now be focused entirely on the 25 percent bracket.
The 13-week extension of unemployment benefits would now be nationwide, rather than limited to those states hardest hit by the economic downturn.
There would be some additional money for health insurance for laid-off workers, beyond that contained in the National Emergency Grants.
If continuing negotiations fail to produce a compromise, House Republicans said they may bring Mr. Bush's revised plan to the floor for a vote as early as tomorrow. The move could increase pressure on Mr. Daschle to schedule a vote in the Senate.
Mr. Fleischer said the Senate simply has to open its eyes to the necessity of an economic stimulus bill.
"The will is there, the number of members are there. The question is, does the Senate leadership want to find a way to match the will? And the president believes this is a classic issue," Mr. Fleischer said.
Said Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott: "I think we need to get it done. The question is, are we committed? Can we get it over the top?"

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