Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Now Comes the Hard Part

The Senate passed the stimulus package 61-37 and now heads for the conference between the House and Senate to work out the differences.

In a sign of their determination to reconcile the differences between the Senate bill and the $820 billion House version swiftly, the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and the budget director, Peter R. Orszag, huddled at the Capitol on Tuesday evening with Speaker Nancy Pelosi; the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada; and other lawmakers.

Participants in the talks said they wanted to reduce the overall price to just under $800 billion.

Getting the bill through the House and the Senate was just the warm-up act. Now comes the real work; the Senate will try to keep their cuts while the Congress, with 435 districts all looking out for their own, not to mention the governors hoping for more money, will try to put back in the money and projects and save jobs.

“If the Senate version holds, there will be very deep cuts,” said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D), who added that the cost to the state and its 5.3 million residents would be $600 million. “We’re going to see teachers and firefighters and police officers lose their jobs.”

In Maryland, a legislative staff analysis found that the state would lose nearly $1 billion under the Senate version, including $454 million in discretionary funding, nearly $200 million in school construction money and nearly $100 million more for higher education projects.

Virginia lawmakers are counting on stimulus funding to help close a $3 billion budget gap. “If the Senate will just move a little closer to the House version, that will provide some very significant tax relief, funding of Medicaid and an extension of unemployment insurance,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) told reporters yesterday.

The proof of a true compromise is that nobody will be 100% happy with the final result.