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Stimulus Package Moves to the Senate

February 1, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The ever-growing economic stimulus package, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week, is slated to be debated in the Senate beginning this afternoon. Since the House’s action on the bill last week, the stimulus package has grown by about $70 billion (now totaling $888 billion), and it is expected to grow even more as it is dealt with by the Senate, probably to more than $900 billion.

While Democrats in the House were able to pass the stimulus package without a single Republican vote, Senate Democrats will need to win the support of at least two Senate Republicans; more if any in their own party defect. This puts Republicans in a strong position to alter the bill through amendments (more on that later; let’s talk procedure first…).

According to the Democrats’ Senate Calendar, at 2PM on Monday, the Senate will proceed to consideration of H.R. 1, Economic Recovery and reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka the stimulus package). This is a debatable motion, therefore filibusterable, so the first legislative hurdle will be a cloture motion that will require 60 votes for passage. I expect that there will be plenty of Republicans willing to join with the Democrats on this in order to move the debate forward.

Now, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees have created their own version of the stimulus package that includes some major changes to the version that the House passed. Once the Senate officially begins debate of H.R. 1, the Senate version will be voted on as a substitute amendment – S.Amdt.98. It would strike out the entire text of H.R. 1 and replace it with what was agreed to by the Senate Committees.

Then the amendment process really begins. How this goes – nobody knows. But it’s expected to be a pretty free-flowing and open process. Technically, all the amendments offered to the bill at this point will be secondary amendments, amendments to S.Amdst.98 (and no, tertiary amendments are not allowed).

On a conference call with reporters on Friday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Democrats plan to let Republicans have their amendments debated and voted on:

>If there are things that Republicans find objectionable, they can offer an amendment and get a majority vote to take it out. Or if they want to make a switch between the ratio of tax cuts to spending they can try. Speaking for myself, and I think I speak for most Democrats … I am not sure they would get much Democratic support to greatly cut back on the spending side and further increase the tax cuts.

As for the amendments that will be offered, here’s what we know right now:

  • Someone, maybe Dick Durbin (D-IL) will likely introduce a “”">Buy American" amendment to match the one that was adopted by the House.

We’ll be keeping close track of the Senate’s stimulus debate this week and reporting the developments as they occur. To keep up with the debate, subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed and the feeds on OpenCongress for the stimulus bill itself.

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