WASHINGTON Feb 11 Congressional negotiators
and White House officials met behind closed doors late on
Tuesday to try to work out disagreements over spending and tax
cuts in an economic stimulus bill that could cost taxpayers
around $800 billion.
With President Barack Obama setting a weekend deadline for
finishing the complex legislation -- and lawmakers hoping to
start a week-long recess then -- the pressure was on to cut
deals that would open the way for the Senate and House of
Representatives to pass a final compromise.
"We're not there, but we've made a significant amount of
progress the last 10 hours," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
told reporters after he wrapped up Tuesday's final negotiating
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he hoped an agreement could
be reached on Wednesday, but declined to detail the progress
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a former
joined the discussions on Capitol Hill.
Obama met at the White House with fiscally conservative
House Democrats, who told reporters they had received
assurances that the administration would work to rein in future
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said she
hoped all work could be done by the weekend, but noted that
some House Democrats were "concerned" about Senate cuts to
education and other spending initiatives already approved by
According to one House Democratic aide, the negotiators
might be able to come to a quick agreement on the tax-cut part
of the bill, but the spending priorities could be more
Once a deal is brokered by House and Senate leaders, with
Obama's blessing, a public meeting of the negotiators will be
convened to formally sign off on the bill that would be
presented to each chamber for final votes.
The House has passed a bill costing about $820 billion in
tax cuts and spending programs, while the Senate's version is a
somewhat more expensive $838 billion gambit.
Pelosi says her chamber's legislation would create more
jobs at less cost, fulfilling Obama's pledge to create or save
up to 4 million jobs through a series of construction and
investment projects and tax cuts to put more money in
But Reid, hamstrung by more difficult Senate procedures,
steered a bill through his chamber that cuts out some spending
that Republicans objected to.
It also has tax incentives for buying automobiles and
houses, which helped attract Republican support, and a one-year
fix to a quirk in the tax law that threatens to ensnare the
middle class in a tax intended for the richest.
Most Senate Republicans, and all House Republicans, have
opposed the bills as written so far and there was little hope
among Democrats of forging a truly bipartisan bill that Obama
says needs to be enacted quickly to avert a "catastrophe."
Various business groups have thrown their support behind
the Democratic-written legislation. The U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, for example, supports "many of the pro-growth tax
initiatives in the bill, as well as the spending-side
provisions to provide stimulus, create jobs and get Americans
back to work."