House and Senate negotiators will continue their work today in a conference committee aimed at reconciling differences between the two economic stimulus bills. More on those differences here.
Representing the House in the discussions are Representatives David Obey (D-WI, 7th District), Charles Rangel (D-NY, 15th District), Henry Waxman (D-CA, 30th District), Jerry Lewis (R-CA, 41st District) and Dave Camp (R-MI, 4th District).
Representing the Senate are Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Harry Reid (D-NV). Additionally, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) have also been informally involved. Their votes are crucial to passing the final compromise package in the Senate.
So how much progress is being made? Politico reports that the stimulus package moved “quickly Tuesday into late night negotiations in the Capitol with the president stepping forward to put his stamp on the package and defuse intra-party wrangling that might delay final passage.”
Scaling the package back to the $790 billion to $800 billion range, with the goal of still generating 3.5 million jobs, is part of the discussions. To facilitate this, the administration appears open to reducing Obama’s signature “Making Work Pay” tax break to $400 for individuals and $800 for couples—down from $500 and $1000 respectively.
House and Senate clerks worked through the night to craft a package within the new format which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nev.) can take back to Republican moderates in the Senate Wednesday.
“Basically it is whatever Obama wants,” said one House staffer. In the face of the continued market turmoil and troubled economy, action seems a first priority for the administration.
Could there be an agreement reached today? A few Senators think it’s possible.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Budget Director Peter Orszag shuttled between House and Senate leadership offices, spurred on by Reid, who said he wanted a “first cut” of what a final bill might look like in the next 24 hours.
“I see some real possibilities,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) told Politico. And Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said it is now “very possible” that an agreement could be reached Wednesday. “They’re trying to get what needs to get done,” said Emanuel.
That doesn’t necessarily mean votes would take place today, however. Any agreement would likely be a preliminary one which would be used to gauge the support among Republican and Democratic moderates whose votes are needed for final passage.