The House hopes to vote next week on the $825 billion package sought by President Barack Obama to help the struggling economy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, as Republicans complained their proposals were not getting a fair hearing.
Republicans criticizing the package say the $550 billion devoted to government spending would add too much to the deficit and that greater emphasis should be given to tax cuts than the $275 billion now planned.
Tax cuts, they argue, would more quickly jolt the economy out of a yearlong recession. "The president asked for action swift and bold. That is what we are doing," Pelosi told reporters, adding that the bill would be considered on the House floor next week.
"The American people are in a desperate situation." Obama and Democrats want the package to be signed into law by mid-February but must overcome Republican criticism that it sets money for projects they said are inappropriate like the National Endowment for the Arts and restoring the Washington National Mall.
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But Republicans were upset that their proposals were not gaining any traction in the various committees considering the stimulus package and plan to raise their ideas with Obama next week when they meet.
The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee was set to pass a part of the stimulus package on Thursday, a $304 billion package of middle-class tax breaks, incentives for renewable energy efforts, and help for unemployed families afford health insurance.
Republicans were expected to offer provisions to cut the lowest income tax rates, currently at 10 and 15 percent, to 5 and 10 percent while another would extend the 15 percent tax rate on dividends beyond 2010.
However, those changes were not expected to pass. "We will take our proposals directly to the president who has agreed to sit down with us and hear our case," said Rep. Dave Camp, the top Republican on the Ways and Means panel. "The American people know we cannot spend our way to prosperity."
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Pelosi expressed little concern about plans by House Republicans to meet with Obama next week to offer their own ideas for the package, noting that more communication between Congress and the White House was a sign of breaking the partisan gridlock that has gripped Washington for years.