Even as the nation’s economic news seems to darken each day, the White House and congressional Democrats remain at odds over proposals designed to reverse the trend.
Democrats are urging passage of yet another stimulus package — reportedly in the $100 billion range — providing aid for states, the unemployed and Detroit’s flailing automakers. The Bush administration, though, has been steady in its opposition — a position reiterated Tuesday by White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
“So far,” she said, “we have not seen something [from Congress] that would stimulate the economy right away.”
Last month, Perino suggested that Democrats could help the economy by dropping their long-held opposition to a trade-expansion plan with Columbia. According to reports surfacing today, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) rejects the idea of including the Columbia free-trade pact as part of the stimulus deal. From Bloomberg:
“The speaker has said that our first responsibility is to provide immediate assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering in today’s economy, and with the worsening economic conditions, the need for a Main Street recovery and job creation package is now,” said Nadeam Elshami, a Pelosi spokesman. “That is our top economic priority and the Colombia free-trade agreement should be considered on its own merits.”
Citing unnamed Republicans, the New York Times reported Tuesday that Bush would drop some of his opposition to the Democrats’ stimulus plans in exchange for the Columbia deal — a claim Perino denied categorically.
“In no way did President Bush suggest that there was a quid pro quo when it came to Colombia free trade agreement or the other free trade agreements,” she said.
House lawmakers were expected to return to Washington next week for short post-election “rump session.” Without a stimulus agreement with the White House, though, they might just cancel those plans. Speaking to reporters Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) questioned the logic of returning to debate a bill that the president would veto.
“Clearly there is no point in us doing something if the administration is going to take the position that they’re not going to sign something,” Hoyer said.
President-elect Barack Obama said last week that a stimulus bill would be his first priority next year if Congress fails to act this month. It’s looking more and more like it’s a task that, by necessity, will fall to him.
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