- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

A bitterly divided Senate Finance Committee yesterday barely approved the Democrats' $64 billion economic-stimulus plan that the White House said was stuffed with pork-barrel spending and would do nothing to help the economy.
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, called the bill, which passed on an 11-10 party-line vote, an "effective stimulus for economic recovery" that would help workers who lost their jobs as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The 21-member committee had been at an impasse for weeks because Democrats could not get an 11-vote majority needed to send their plan to the Senate.
But Senate sources said yesterday that Mr. Baucus persuaded Sen. James M. Jeffords, the Vermont independent who left the Republican Party earlier this year, to back his bill in exchange for action on the Dairy Compact subsidy bill.
Republicans, pushing an $89 billion stimulus bill made up mostly of tax cuts for businesses and workers, attacked the Democrats' plan as nothing more than "a collage of political giveaways," while the White House, in a departure from its usual bipartisan tone, ridiculed some of its spending provisions as wasteful.
"The stimulus package being considered in the Senate contains $220 million to buy bison meat, cauliflower, eggplant and pumpkins," said President Bush's chief spokesman, Ari Fleischer. "The president does not understand how that can be stimulative for the economy."
Mr. Baucus said the bill he drafted would authorize the money to purchase large quantities of nearly three dozen agricultural commodities from peppers to peaches whose prices had dropped during the past two years.
Other parts of the bill would expand the authority of Indian tribes to issue new tax-exempt bonds, extend an investment deduction sought by the movie industry to businesses that purchase films, and expand an income-tax credit to include poultry manure and other waste materials used for energy production.
Mr. Baucus added other items to make the bill more appealing to several committee Democrats, including a tax credit for Amtrak rail service bonds and the Hudson River Tunnel project that were sought by Sen. Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey.
More than half the bill's funds were devoted to spending for expanded unemployment benefits, health insurance premium payments and other worker benefits. The rest consisted of tax incentives for business investments and rebates for lower-income workers who did not receive tax rebates this fall because they did not earn enough to owe taxes.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle defended the plan, saying he hoped to bring up the bill for floor debate today, though Senate aides said they expected no votes until next week. The South Dakota Democrat said he intended to add $20 billion in spending proposed by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, to beef up security for transportation and other infrastructure sectors.
Mr. Bush told Democratic leaders earlier this week in an Oval Office meeting that if the bill contained the additional spending Democrats were proposing, he would veto it.
The president is supporting the Senate Republican bill that calls for speeding up the income tax cuts passed this spring, eliminating the alternative minimum income tax, providing faster tax write-offs for businesses who purchase new equipment, and rebates for low-income workers.
Some committee Democrats, including Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, opposed the Baucus bill, but voted it out of committee in the belief that they could hammer out a compromise in the Senate.
"The sooner we get it to the floor, the easier it will be to reach an agreement," Mr. Breaux said.


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