- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

The two parties on Capitol Hill continued firing at each other yesterday, as a key Republican House member yesterday accused Democrats of deliberately stalling any action on the House-passed economic recovery bill.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, accused Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, of preferring talk of compassion to actually helping people in need.
"Faced with the alternative passing responsible and effective legislation to stimulate the economy Senator Daschle seems to prefer to watch the clock run out," he said in a statement put out by his committee.
"They talk about compassion and with passion about people who are unemployed. Fine, get off your duff and do something," Mr. Thomas said.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said that a Senate Republican plan, which would speed up the tax cuts and give a rebate to workers who do not earn enough to pay taxes, was "a rip-off" for working Americans.
The proposal would never see the light of day, he said.
That attack led the usually mild-mannered Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, ranking Republican on the Finance Committee and drafter of his party's plan, to rebuke his Democratic critics on the Senate floor.
"Democrats have turned up the partisan heat and are trying to torch any real plan that will help our economy and our country," Mr. Grassley said.
Still, with the government reporting that the economic growth rate was negative for the first time in nearly eight years, as thousands lost jobs and consumer confidence plunged, there appeared to be a faint signal yesterday of some preliminary efforts to break the impasse.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, met privately with Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, and other members of the Finance Committee who are trying to work out a compromise. A Republican aide said after meeting that "the hopes of finding a favorable compromise have grown substantially."
The Finance Committee plans to meet Tuesday in an attempt to fashion a bill that Mr. Daschle said he hoped to bring up for debate later in the week. But the panel's 11 Democrats were so divided over their party's stimulus plan that a Democratic aide conceded yesterday that it does not have the votes to be sent to the Senate "as of now."
Mr. Breaux, an influential committee member who was closer to the GOP's plan than to the plan backed by liberal Democrats, said he was working with members of the Centrist Coalition "to see what we can do to create a consensus and bridge the divide."
Nevertheless, despite President Bush's pleas for the Senate to act soon, both sides appeared even further apart on a possible compromise after Democratic leaders signaled they would add $20 billion in new expenditures for transportation and other infrastructure spending to their stimulus bill.
"The marriage of these two packages will be the Democratic response for economic recovery, and I'm hopeful that we could be on the floor with this debate as early as next week," Mr. Daschle said.
But administration officials said last night there was no support in the White House for that level of additional spending and it would face a certain veto.
"Ideas beyond the deal we have are unnecessary, unwise and unacceptable and they will not happen," White House Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. told The Washington Times last night.
Meantime, it seemed that the more the economy weakened, the more heated the political charges and countercharges have become.
"In this era of bipartisanship, the attack dogs were unleashed and with a fury," Mr. Grassley said.

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