Deal Reached On Stimulus - But No Vote Yet

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announces a bipartisan Senate agreement on President Obama's stimulus bill Friday night, Feb. 6, 2009. But some Republicans were still raising roadblocks to the bill and the prospect of a vote Friday was in doubt. CBS

With job losses soaring nationwide, Senate Democrats reached agreement with a small group of Republicans Friday night on an economic stimulus measure at the heart of President Barack Obama's plan for combating the worst recession in decades.

"The American people want us to work together. They don't want to see us dividing along partisan lines on the most serious crisis confronting our country," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of three Republican moderates who broke ranks and pledged their votes for the bill.

In addition Collins, Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania have announced support for compromise measure, CBS News has confirmed.

Democratic leaders expressed confidence that the concessions they had made to Republicans and moderate Democrats to trim the measure had cleared the way for its passage. The lawmakers worked into the early morning hours Saturday, and were to reconvene later in the day, but no final vote was expected until early next week, perhaps Monday.

Of course, "a whole lot" will be back on the negotiating table when the stimulus bill goes to conference committee in the coming days, reports CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid.

"Nancy Pelosi and other liberal Democrats in the house do not like these cuts. They didn't even like the idea of trying to cut $100 billion out of this bill, much less $150 billion and they're vigorously opposed to those cuts in education," Reid said.

Officials put the cost of the bill at $827 billion, including Obama's signature tax cut of up to $1,000 for working couples, even if they earn too little to pay income taxes. Also included are breaks for homebuyers and people buying new cars.

Republican critics complained that whatever the cost, billions were ticketed for programs that would not create jobs.

In a key reduction from the bill that reached the Senate floor earlier in the week, $40 billion would be cut from a "fiscal stabilization fund" for state governments' education costs, though $14 billion to boost the maximum for college Pell Grants by $400 to $5,250 would be preserved, as would aid to local school districts for the No Child Left Behind law and special education.

A plan to help the unemployed purchase health insurance would be reduced to a 50 percent subsidy instead of two-thirds.

The agreement capped a tense day of backroom negotiations in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, sought to attract the support of enough Republicans to give the measure the needed 60-vote majority. Democrats hold a 58-41 majority in the Senate, including two independents.

Uncertain of the outcome of the talks, Democrats called Sen. Edward M. Kennedy back to Washington in case his vote was needed. The Massachusetts senator, battling brain cancer, has been in Florida in recent days and has not been in the Capitol since suffering a seizure on Inauguration Day more than two weeks ago.

Whatever the price tag, the compromise marked a victory for the new president, who has veered between calls for bipartisanship and increasingly strong criticism of Republicans in recent days. And it indicated that Democratic leaders remain on track to deliver a bill to the White House by the end of next week.

Late Friday night, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "On the day when we learned 3.6 million people have lost their jobs since this recession began, we are pleased the process is moving forward and we are closer to getting Americans a plan to create millions of jobs and get people back to work."

Slightly more than half the country approves of President Obama's $800 billion-plus stimulus package, a new CBS News poll finds. But support for the bill has fallen 12 points since January, and nearly half of those surveyed do not believe it will shorten the recession.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed support the stimulus package, while 39 percent do not. An additional 10 percent don't know. Last month, 63 percent supported the package and just 24 percent opposed it.

Obama said earlier in the day that further delay would be "inexcusable and irresponsible" given Friday's worst monthly unemployment report in a generation - 598,000 jobs lost in January and the national unemployment rate rising to 7.6 percent. And late Friday, federal regulators announced the closures of three banks, First Bank Financial Services in Georgia and Alliance Bank and County Bank in California, raising to nine the number of bank failures this year.

"The world is waiting to see what we're going to do in the next 24 hours," said Reid who has spent much of the week trying to balance demands among moderates in both parties against pressure for a larger bill from liberals in his own rank and file.

  • CBSNews

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