- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Senate is expected to vote today on a measure that could undermine a proposed economic-stimulus plan from being quickly implemented, delaying millions of Americans from receiving a one-time tax rebate.

Senate Democrats are looking to add billions of dollars to a $146 billion House version of the plan that was brokered last month by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

President Bush backed the House plan, but has not indicated if he would support a more costly measure.

Senate Republicans are expected to block the Democratic proposal.

“Here was that rare situation when both parties agreed to put politics and individual interests aside and come together for the good of the people, but then the stimulus bullet train turned into a rickety stagecoach here in the Senate,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

“Taxpayers will get their rebate checks, and businesses will get their much-needed relief, but not without having to watch a show here for a few more days or a week — put on for the sake of a depressingly familiar political circus,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has denied his push to expand the package will jeopardize or delay a deal being sent to the president for his signature.

“Republicans know perfectly well that no matter how this debate turns out, no one’s checks are being held up,” Mr. Reid said. “Any stimulus plan — whether the House version, the Senate Finance Committee version, or a combination of the two — would calculate rebate checks on 2007 income-tax returns. We all know that taxes are not due until April 15th.”

The $157 billion Democratic proposal, drafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, would double the House version’s eligibility threshold for rebates to individuals earning $150,000 and couples making $300,000. The proposal would provide rebates to 21.5 million retirees and 250,000 disabled veterans left out of the House bill.

It calls for extending unemployment benefits, providing small businesses a greater flexibility in deducting the purchase of machinery and equipment on their taxes, and includes an extension of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy incentives.

The Senate plan also is expected to include a $1 billion expansion to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and a housing-rescue package that is included in the House package.

“The stimulus package sent to us by the House of Representatives last week was a good start, but it is our job to take a bill from the House and work to make it stronger,” Mr. Reid said.

The White House yesterday opened the door to expanding an economic-stimulus plan to revive the ailing U.S. economy when a top official offered to extend a tax rebate to some 20 million retirees and disabled veterans.

“We recognize the difficulties that low-income seniors and veterans are facing, and I’m sure we will be able to work something out, get something quickly done that is broad-based,” Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. told the Senate committee.

But Mr. Paulson said the administration opposed some provisions in a the Senate proposal.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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