- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of money that families would receive in rebate checks. — THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday put the breaks on an economic-stimulus plan, saying he wouldn’t hold a vote until Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama return to Washington.

“As you know, next Tuesday is Super Tuesday, and they’re both very busy,” Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, said on the Senate floor. “I probably can’t get them back here until Monday, but I do need them back.”

He noted that Republican candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona was out campaigning, too.

Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, has not planned when to return to the Senate because the vote isn’t scheduled, though he expected to have a better idea of what to do by Monday, an Obama aide said.

Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, did not return calls seeking comment.

Later, Mr. Reid scheduled a vote for Monday on the first of five votes to amend the House bill. He is expected to schedule the remaining votes for Wednesday.

Mr. Reid told reporters that Super Tuesday, when 22 states hold presidential contests, should not keep the senators from casting important votes.

“They can pull away,” he said, adding that he was confident they would be in the Senate chamber when called to vote.

He said he needed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama for all five votes, an indication of how close he expects the votes to be. Under Senate rules, each vote will require a 60-vote majority to pass and the Democrats appeared shy of the mark.

The Democrats want to add billions of dollars of spending to the bipartisan House-passed bill for $146 billion in tax rebates to most workers and tax breaks to businesses.

The House bill is backed by the White House and Senate Republicans.

Senate Democrats want to add $11 billion in measures that range from expanded jobless and food-stamp benefits to home-heating assistance and counseling services for homeowners facing foreclosure.

They want to expand the number of rebate checks to include about 20 million poor retirees, 250,000 disabled veterans and taxpayers with higher incomes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, lamented the chamber’s failure to follow the example of the House and strike a bipartisan agreement.

“The bullet train speeding relief to Americans quickly became a horse and buggy here in the Senate,” he said. “We need to act quickly. The House acted quickly. Now it’s our turn.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said the bill would reach President Bush’s desk by Feb. 15, when Congress takes a weeklong break for Presidents Day.

“We are right on track to do that and we are not delaying or slowing down this package,” he said. “Our first goal is speed.”

The Senate plan would cost at least $157 billion and give $500 tax rebate checks to most workers, $100 less than the House bill but more people would get checks. Families would get $1,000 — $200 less than in the House bill.

Both bills provide families with an added $300 tax credit per child.

The Senate bill also gives payouts to higher-income taxpayers, phasing out the rebate checks for people earning more than $150,000 a year and families making more than $300,000 — twice the income ceiling in the House plan.

“This is something that is important,” Mr. Reid said. “It has things I think the American people want.”

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