House Leaders Announce Bipartisan Deal on Stimulus Package

Posted January 24, 2008 at 1:52pm

Republican and Democratic House leaders reached agreement Thursday with the White House on a short-term stimulus package, setting the stage for the Senate to begin its own negotiations with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

“The package that we’ll bring forth deserves the support of Members of Congress,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a midday press conference.

The slimmed-down three-part proposal focuses in large part on rebates of $300 to $600 per worker, including individuals who are subject to payroll taxes but do not earn enough to pay income taxes.

The measure also aims to provide relief to subprime-mortgage borrowers facing home foreclosures by implementing a one-year increase in conforming loan limits from the current $417,000 to $625,500.

The third provision targets business investment, providing tax breaks to businesses investing in new plants and equipment.

Senators are now expected to begin negotiations with the Bush administration.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), while deferring to Pelosi to negotiate the deal, called Thursday’s agreement “a good first step” but said the Senate will still take an opportunity to make changes.

Reid said Senators want to vet numerous proposals before moving the package forward, including an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, additional infrastructure assistance and increased Medicaid payments to the states.

Many of those proposals were stripped from the House version amid strong objections from Republicans, who in exchange agreed to give in to Democrats’ desire that tax rebates go to all income earners, not just taxpayers.

“I can’t say I’m totally pleased with the package,” Pelosi acknowledged, although she declined to details her complaints. The Californian added that Congress should address other issues in future legislation if the economy worsens. “We will not hesitate to advance additional legislation,” she said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) similarly praised the agreement, stating: “It’s a good compromise that will benefit the American people.”

Still, Senate Democratic leaders said they weren’t willing to completely accept the House-drawn deal without giving it a hard look.

“When it comes over here we’re going to take another look at it,” Reid said.

Senate Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray (Wash.) called the bipartisan package a “very good step, but not the only step.”

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a markup on the stimulus measure for next week, and Reid said he anticipates the Senate can consider and complete consideration of the measure within about 10 days. The Majority Leader insisted that the entire proposal can clear Congress by Feb. 15, the deadline Democrats set for passage and the same day lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the Presidents Day recess.

Reid said that while Senators want to work their will on the stimulus, he also understands the package was crafted delicately and with all interests in mind.

“We are going to do our very best to leave [intact] the bipartisan atmosphere of the House,” Reid said.

House leaders acknowledged the Senate may likely amend the proposal and said any changes will be addressed when the package is returned to the House.

“This is the beginning of the legislative processes. They will act upon it and we will act upon that,” Pelosi said.