- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has canceled today's legislative markup of the economic-stimulus package, signaling that Democrats do not have enough votes to send their bill to the full Senate.
The decision was an embarrassing early setback for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Democrats in their bid to block President Bush's tax-cutting economic-recovery plan and pass a substitute bill that spends more on unemployment, health care and job-training benefits. It includes $20 billion in spending on infrastructure and public-works projects.
Yesterday's postponement by Mr. Baucus, Montana Democrat, showed that he had been unable to attract any Republican support for his bill or to rally the full support of Democratic colleagues on the panel. The Democrats have an 11-10 majority on the tax-writing committee.
Finance Committee staffers met yesterday afternoon but reported little progress. No one could say whether the committee would take any action this week or whether Democratic leaders simply would take a bill straight to the Senate floor, bypassing the committee.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, told reporters yesterday that he thought the Senate could complete action on a bill sometime next week further acknowledgment that the Democrats did not have the votes for their proposal.
Senate sources said one of the biggest holdups is Sen. James M. Jeffords, an independent from Vermont, who opposes the Democrats' plan to provide direct health care insurance payments to unemployed workers.
Mr. Jeffords' plan, co-authored by Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, would provide a refundable tax credit for workers to use toward health insurance costs.
Mr. Breaux is among several Democrats on the panel who want the bill to include more tax cuts and less spending. He has been working behind the scenes to fashion a compromise more to the administration's liking.
"I think it's obvious that we have to have a compromise. Neither party can pass our own bills by themselves. Republicans cannot pass the [Iowa Sen. Charles E.] Grassley bill, or we cannot pass the Baucus bill, but we can pass a combination that takes the best features of both bills," Mr. Breaux said Sunday on Fox News.
"We ought to be talking about stimulating the economy and not stimulating the political parties by political rhetoric," said Mr. Breaux, a centrist Democrat who helped Mr. Bush pass his 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax-cut plan this spring.
"You want to obviously do it as fast as you possibly can. I think some tax cuts can do that, accelerated depreciation can help businesses buy things that they might not otherwise buy. But you also have to do something to put the money in the hands of people," he said.
In light of the continuing gridlock, House and Senate Republican leaders plan to step up their attacks on Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, for holding up a bill. A House Republican leadership aide said several events are planned this week to show how the delay is hurting small businesses and workers who have lost their jobs.
Senate Republican leaders, too, planned to hold a news conference this morning in front of the Capitol to keep political pressure on Mr. Daschle and his party in the midst of the steep economic decline and rising layoffs that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"Every day that we do not act on the president's job-security package is a day we have rising unemployment and our country continues to enter a potential recession. The time to act is now," said Ron Bonjean, chief spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
A week ago, Mr. Daschle said the administration's stimulus plan was "not on the front burner" and that appropriation bills had a higher priority for him.
But Republican officials said yesterday they did not think Mr. Daschle could maintain that position after Friday's politically potent announcement that the unemployment rate soared last month to 5.4 percent, the largest one-month job loss in nearly 20 years.
"The Democrats are trying to hit a flank that we don't think exists. People want something done about the economy," Mr. Bonjean said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide