- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

The Senate yesterday passed a package of unemployment benefits and investment incentives and sent it on to President Bush, who said he will sign it.
"I think it's going to be really good for workers whose lives have been affected as a result of nine-eleven, and it's good for entrepreneurs and business owners because it encourages investment, it encourages employment," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "The best stimulus plan is one that focuses on jobs. And I applaud the House, that stayed with this, and I'm glad the Senate finally passed it. I look forward to signing it."
The bill passed the Senate 85-9, with one Republican joining eight Democrats in voting against it. It had passed the House on Thursday, 417-3.
Monday marks six months since the September 11 terrorist attacks, and lawmakers wanted to have a package approved by then. Since the attacks, 1.6 million Americans have lost jobs, senators said.
The bill, which will cost $42 billion over the next 10 years, extends unemployment benefits for up to another 13 weeks, continues more than a dozen tax breaks that either have expired or will soon expire, and lets businesses depreciate new equipment faster for the next three years. Backers hope the depreciation measure will spur investments and help keep the economic recovery on track.
The bill also included a few tax breaks individual members have been fighting for. One, sought by Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican; Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat; and Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, would give a tax deduction of to $250 to elementary and secondary school teachers who pay out of their own pockets for classroom supplies.
Senate Democratic leaders said in this version the fourth stimulus bill the House has sent over Republican leaders finally left out the extra tax breaks Democrats had objected to.
"This bill is yet another example of what we can accomplish when we put partisanship aside and find common ground something we have done so often in the days since September 11th, and something I hope we will continue to do in the days and months ahead," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
Democrats had been angling for a bill that would pay for health coverage for the unemployed and would provide money to the states to cover Medicaid costs in addition to the unemployment benefits. For some Democrats, not including them was a deal breaker for this bill.
"I can't, in any sense of conscience, support this bill," said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, who voted against the bill. "This has about $9 billion to expand unemployment insurance. That's good, that's fine. That's one of the three."
Republicans, though, said the bill was a good effort, even though they wanted more provisions to spur the economy.
"Here we are with a mixed bag. There is good news in terms of extended unemployment benefits, bonus depreciation and other measures. But there is bad news in terms of the missed opportunities," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.
In addition to Sen. Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island, the sole Republican to vote against the bill, the other dissenters were Mr. Rockefeller, Robert C. Byrd from West Virginia, Thomas R. Carper from Delaware, Kent Conrad, North Dakota; Mark Dayton from Minnesota; Christopher J. Dodd from Connecticut; Russell D. Feingold from Wisconsin; and Carl Levin from Michigan.

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