Senate Moves Closer To Passing Stimulus

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., debating the economic stimulus package, Feb. 7, 2009., senate,
The U.S. Senate has gone back into session this afternoon, as it moves closer to a vote on President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan.

Last night Democratic leaders reached a deal with a handful of Republican and Democratic moderates to trim more than $100 billion dollars from the plan, which now totals about $827 billion dollars.

Moderates pushed for cuts in programs that might not generate sufficient jobs quickly.

Meanwhile, President Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address to stress the need to pass the bill, saying it will jump-start the struggling economy and put people back to work.

"Americans across this country are struggling, and they are watching to see if we're equal to the task before us," he said. "Let's show them that we are. And let's do whatever it takes to keep the promise of America alive in our time."

In the Republic response, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said lots of money in the stimulus package is going to the wrong place.

The compromise came late Friday evening, reports CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier, after a core group of seventeen Democrats and Republicans went through the bill line-by-line, crossing stuff out.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. Said, "We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon, and milked the sacred cow."

They stripped out more than a hundred billion dollars in areas like education. Republicans had said the provisions, though worthy, were not likely to produce jobs - the stated goal of the economic stimulus. That makes this version of the plan cheaper than the House's, with its $819 billion price tag.

But there are still plenty of detractors.

"This is page after page of pork barrel spending," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The deal brought three Republicans over to support President Obama's stimulus package, enough to break a Republican filibuster and move the bill along.

Other Republicans are still angry about it; they can't stop it, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss, so they're delaying it, saying they need more debate.

At this rate, a vote on the bill is now likely on Tuesday, after which it must be reconciled with a House bill with fewer tax cuts and more direct spending.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is already warning, if the Senate bill passes, she'll fight to put education back in when the two conflicting bills merge in conference.

Driving the debate Friday was more bad news on the labor front: a staggering 600,000 jobs were lost in December, the worst showing in three decades.

President Obama is keeping the pressure on.

"It is inexcusable and irresponsible to get bogged down in distraction and delay while millions of Americans are being put out of work."

He'll be hammering the message home all next week, with his first prime-time news conference Monday night. He'll also hold town hall meetings in places hard-hit by unemployment.

On Monday he'll visit Elkhart, Indiana, where unemployment has jumped from 4.7% just over a year ago to 15% now.

On Tuesday, he'll go to Ft. Meyers, Florida, where unemployment jumped from 6% to 10%.