- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

Senate Democrats yesterday dealt the final blow to President Bush's $89 billion economic recovery plan after Republicans defeated a watered-down Democratic proposal.
Partisan finger-pointing began almost immediately.
"The Republicans killed the economic stimulus bill," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who was blamed in December for blocking the bipartisan White House plan. "They killed it."
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said, "The Senate majority leader has put politics ahead of people."
The Senate did manage to approve unanimously a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits, to 39 weeks, for about 2 million laid-off workers. That proposal now goes to the House.
Each side said it had more than 50 votes to approve the competing plans for recession relief. But under Senate rules, neither side had the 60 votes required to overcome objections.
"The problem is you have to have 60 votes to do anything in this body, which is not right," said Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat. "You can never explain it to Joe Six-Pack down at the Wal-Mart why 42 votes beats something and 58 votes doesn't."
Senators of both parties said yesterday's votes set the tone for a rancorous, unproductive election year in a Senate divided with 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent.
"Election years always doom good government," said Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat. "If we just look over the fence and shoot at each other, everybody's going to be dead."
The White House-backed plan would have accelerated income-tax cuts approved last year, extend unemployment benefits, give rebate checks of up to $600 for lower-income Americans and grant tax breaks for businesses to encourage investment. The vote was 48 to 47; Democrats said it devoted too much to tax relief.
Mr. Daschle's $69 billion proposal included the unemployment benefit extension, an increase in Medicaid money to states, tax rebate checks and less generous business tax breaks. Seven Republicans voted for it, but it failed 56 to 39. Most Republicans said it would not help to create jobs.
Republicans said the effort by Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, to bring up a bill now was aimed at shifting the blame he received late last year when he refused to allow a vote on the White House-backed plan. Vice President Richard B. Cheney had called Mr. Daschle "obstructionist" at the time.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said Mr. Daschle was motivated by "the charge that the Senate was becoming a sinkhole of inactivity."
"People started saying, you know, 'There is a problem with the Democratic leadership in the Senate,'" Mr. Lott said. "I think that he realized that. And I think that contributed to the fact."
Mr. Daschle countered that his plan had needed only four more Republican votes to send it to a House-Senate conference committee.
Meanwhile, the House held a nonbinding referendum on reaffirming support for the administration's $1.35 trillion tax cut that Congress approved last year. The resolution received 235 votes, short of the 290 votes required to pass it under the special procedure by which it was brought to the floor.
House Republicans voted 208-1 in favor of the measure; the lone "no" vote among the GOP was by Rep. Constance A. Morella of Maryland. House Democrats voted 26-179 against it.

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