Senate leaders at an impasse over an economic-stimulus bill yesterday proposed a summit with the White House but met resistance from House Republican leaders.
“Neither side is close to 60 votes and time is passing,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat. “It’s beginning to sink in.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota yesterday conceded that Democrats do not have the 60 votes necessary to overcome Republican objections to the Democratic bill, approved by the Finance Committee only last week.
In a meeting with President Bush at the White House, Mr. Daschle balked at negotiating a bill with Senate Republicans and then in a conference with the Republican-led House, which has already approved a $100 billion plan focused heavily on tax relief for businesses.
“We’re simply not prepared to sit down with our Republican colleagues, reach an agreement, then do the same with our House colleagues and then the White House,” Mr. Daschle said. “It’s got to be simultaneously.”
Congressional leaders then raised the idea of holding meetings with Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill to speed action on a compromise bill. Mr. Baucus said the talks would include himself, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas of California and Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, ranking Democrat on the House panel.
Senate sources said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, tentatively agreed to the idea. So did Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, who got support from his Senate Republican colleagues for a summit.
But later at a closed meeting of House Republican leaders, the notion of a summit met with strong opposition from House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republicans, who called it “dangerous” and said it was reminiscent of disastrous budget summits with President Clinton in 1995 and 1996.
As that meeting ended, according to a source who attended, House Republican leaders were even joking derisively that Mr. O’Neill should lead the summit. Mr. O’Neill is increasingly unpopular with House Republicans.
Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the lawmaker did not agree to a summit, but only promised to “run it by the leadership” in the House.
“Our leadership is leery of a summit,” Mr. Feehery said. “The Senate needs to pass a bill.”
House Republican sources said such a summit could give Mr. Daschle and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, a forum for their proposals and undercut House Republicans’ bargaining power.
As congressional leaders sought a solution to the stimulus impasse, Mr. Daschle tried to attach another condition: That Republicans allow a vote this year on $15 billion in extra spending for homeland security.
“We want to negotiate the entire package,” Mr. Daschle said. “That is my desire. That is my insistence right now.”
Mr. Bush has said he will veto any spending above the $40 billion that Congress already has approved for costs associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Senate Republicans say they have enough votes to block any further emergency spending.
But in the House, the Appropriations Committee rescheduled action for today on a defense bill that could include an extra $18 billion beyond what Mr. Bush will accept.
Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the panel’s ranking Democrat, yesterday outlined his proposal for $7 billion for homeland security, and New York members of both parties on the committee will try to add another $11 billion for their state.
Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.