The Senate plans a crucial procedural vote Monday after a group of moderate senators forged a compromise over the weekend to trim approximately $110 billion from the economic stimulus bill.
The Senate will hold a cloture vote Monday to end debate on the bill, and Senate Democratic leaders hope to bring the bill itself to a vote on Tuesday. Three moderate Republican senators, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, have indicated that they will vote to overcome the filibuster threat and pass their version of the bill. The three participated in compromise talks with a group of Democrats led by Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and insisted on cuts in spending on education, school construction, aid to states and in President Obama’s Making Work Pay tax credit plan.
A House and Senate conference committee will need to work out differences in the two versions of the stimulus bill and send it back to both chambers for final passage. President Obama hopes to sign the bill before the President’s Day break.
“We’ve trimmed the fat, fried the bacon, and milked the sacred cows,” said Collins (pictured) in a statement. “What remains will fund education, an energy Smart Grid, tax credits for homebuyers and other critical infrastructure.”
The Senate version of the bill totals approximately $827 billion and differs from the House version in several respects. Before the compromise, Senate amendments included a one-year patch on the alternative minimum tax, a tax credit of up to $15,000 for individuals who purchase a home in the next year, and a provision that makes interest payments on car loans and state sales or excise tax deductible for new cars purchased between Nov. 12, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009 (see Senate Approves Homebuyer Tax Credit). However, these and other amendments increased the size of the stimulus package to about $930 billion.
The Senate compromise reduced the tax relief elements of the package from $275 billion to about $250 billion. Among the changes, the compromise trimmed eligibility for President Obama’s Making Work Pay refundable payroll tax credit. Whereas the House version phases out eligibility for individuals with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 per year and couples making $150,000 per year, the Senate version pares this back to $70,000 per year for individuals and $140,000 for couples.
The Senate version also trims back an expansion of the refundable child tax credit in the House version of the bill by changing the earnings threshold to $8,100. For businesses, the Senate version scales back a proposal that would allow companies that lost money this year to receive refunds for taxes they paid in prior years. The compromise also pared back $40 billion in aid to states, reduced financing to expand broadband data networks in rural areas from $9 billion to $7 billion, decreased funding for NASA and the National Science Foundation, cut back funding for education and school construction, and eliminated money for modernizing health information technology.
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