Did Senate jump the gun on stimulus deal?

House Democrats aren't fully on board just yet; they want more funding for school construction, and are upset about the way they've been treated.

Published February 11, 2009 9:35PM (EST)

Seems like the Senators who've been leading the effort to come to agreement on the stimulus package working its way through Congress may have spoken too soon when they announced a deal earlier this afternoon.

In an early sign of trouble, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was conspicuously absent from the press conference the Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, held to discuss the deal. Then, a scheduled meeting of the conference committee responsible for the official reconciliation of the House and Senate versions of the bill was delayed because, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said, the House leadership hadn't yet been "briefed" on the specifics of the agreement.

Now, Democratic leaders from both chambers are meeting in Pelosi's office to work out their remaining differences. The big stumbling block appears to be funding for school construction, but the fact that House members are a little peeved over the way this has been handled is not helping. It's also worth noting that the White House hasn't yet announced its support for the agreement.

Update: A little more detail -- the specific issue appears to be that House Democrats want $10 billion for the states that's been added back to the bill under the agreement to be used specifically for school construction and modernization.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who was one of three Senate Republicans to vote for the bill and whose support is likely central to any deal, opposes that idea. She thinks it's too much federal interference with state and local business. So in order to assuage her and her fellow moderates, the money has thus far been left to the discretion of individual governors.

Nevertheless, a deal still appears close. Congressional sources tell Salon the negotiations aren't far off track, and that they expect the remaining loose ends to be tied up fairly quickly.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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