Senate Democrats Will Not Budge on Expanded Stimulus Plan

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Senate Democrats Will Not Budge on Expanded Stimulus Plan

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrat's majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said in a news conference earlier this week that Democrats were prepared to push for a faceoff with Republicans over a $204 billion economic stimulus package, adding the Democrats would not succumb to pressure to make modest changes to the less expensive plan approved by the House last week, the New York Times reported.

"We should go for the whole package," Reid said at a news conference cited by the Times. He dismissed Republicans' claims that he was bluffing. "Wait until we have this vote, and they'll find out," he said. "I am not much of a bluffer."

Reid is hoping to pressure Republicans into adopting the larger package, which is favored by most Democrats and some moderate Republicans, or push them to vote against provisions important to their constituents, which may prove costly in the fall elections, the report stated.

Reid plans to deny Republicans a chance to vote on a package that includes some, but not all, of the provisions Democrats are attempting to add to the House's plan, the Times reported.

The Democrats' strategy reflects increased confidence to push for the expanded package, at a time when recent news concerns worsening unemployment and growing fears of a recession, the newspaper reported.

However, some Republicans cited by the Times stated Democrats have made a mistake and risk being portrayed as playing politics with the economy.

"He doesn't have the votes," Rep. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), told the Times of Reid. "He knows it, and we shouldn't be fooling around like this."

CSNews Online reported earlier this month the principal changes that Senate Democrats are pushing for include eligibility for $300 rebates for tax filers living only on Social Security or veterans benefits and an expansion of home-heating subsidies.

The House package provides tax rebates of up to $600 for individuals and up to $1,200 for couples filing jointly, along with minimum payments of $300 to individuals with at least $3,000 in earned income and an additional payment of $300 per child for families.

The Senate plan would cost about $204 billion over two years, approximately $40 billion more than the House version, according to the report. Recently, Reid added a $1 billion increase in home-energy subsidies for low-income families, the report stated.

Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, indicated to the Times he would like to adopt the House plan with changes -- including those on Social Security and veterans, and a stipulation that illegal immigrant workers could not receive payments, the Times reported.

Earlier this week, Reid said he would allow votes only on the full Senate package and the original House plan with no changes.

"They are going to vote on this package," he told the Times. "The American people are watching."