Democrats need 60 Senate votes to shut out GOP on Obama stimulus package

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Washington, Feb 8 (ANI): Even though Democrats control the Senate with a 58-vote majority bolstered by the elections, they still need 60 votes to shut down debate from Republicans and advance the bill to a final vote on Tuesday, as President Obama is urging them to do.

And even if the Senate passes the bill, the Senate and House negotiators will have to work out differences between the bills approved by the two bodies, reports Fox News.

Officials put the cost of the Senate package at 827 billion dollars, which combines massive spending, tax cuts and incentives that both the administration and the majority in Congress hope will stimulate the economy into recovery.

Critics have mockingly referred to the plan as a "spendulus" bill, saying it spends too much money on programs that won't stimulate the economy.

The bill includes the president's tax cut of up to 1,000 dollars for working couples -- even if they earn too little to pay income taxes, though the White House has noted that low-income families also pay withholding taxes for Social Security and Medicare.

Also included in the Senate bill are tax breaks for homebuyers and people buying new cars. Much of the new spending would be for victims of the recession, in the form of unemployment compensation, health care and food stamps.

After the final vote, lawmakers from both chambers will try to reconcile the two versions of the bills for a final package to be sent to the president.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a written statement Friday night. "Despite differences between the House and Senate versions, Congress is committed to sending the president legislation to create or save over 3 million jobs and begin to put our country back on the road to recovery."

According to Fox News, among the biggest areas of divergence in the two bills are health care, education and energy.

The Senate bill offers 21 billion dollars to subsidize health care insurance for the unemployed under the COBRA program, compared with 40 billion dollars in the House bill.

The House bill also provides four billion dollars for preventive care, 1.5 billion dollars for community health centers, 420 million dollars to combat avian flu and 335 million dollars for programs that combat AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis.

The Senate bill sets aside about 40 billion dollars for energy programs, focused chiefly on efficiency and renewable energy. The House bill only offers 28.4 billion dollars.

The House bill provides 36 billion dollars to finance locally issued bonds for school construction, teacher training, economic development and infrastructure improvements, while the Senate bill offers only 22.8 billion dollars.

But Democratic leaders expressed confidence that the concessions they've made will trim the bill enough for it to win passage. Three Republican moderates have pledged their support, Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter. (ANI)

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