Congress begins high-pressure stimulus negotiations

Key members of the House and Senate, joined by administration representatives, worked late into the night Tuesday.

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 11, 2009 4:55PM (EST)

If Congressional leaders want to meet a self-imposed deadline and have the stimulus on President Obama's desk by Monday, they have to work quickly. So far, it looks like they're doing that. The bill passed the Senate on Tuesday, and negotiations intended to reconcile that version with the one approved by the House began the same day and continued well into the night.

“We’re not there,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “But we have made a significant amount of progress in the last 10 hours.”

The New York Times reports that, in addition to Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the negotiations involved some of the moderates who'd been key to the Senate vote, like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Members of the House were working, too, as were representatives from the Obama administration: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

House Democrats were unhappy about the cuts from the bill that were a result of the Senate deal, and want to see some of that funding restored, but key Senators have already warned they won't accept many changes.

Over at NBC's First Read blog, Mike Viqueira has a good list of some items in the two bills that could be key to the negotiations, at least according to House Democrats. They want to see a $15,000 homebuyer credit removed from the bill for instance, as it's not especially stimulative and the amendment's sponsor, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), didn't vote for the full package anyway. The same goes for a temporary fix to the alternative minimum tax, which was inserted into the bill by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who didn't support the bill, either. (The AMT fix will probably get done in a separate bill anyway.) The House Dems also want to see some school funding and some money for the states restored.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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