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Senate Republicans Block Stimulus Package

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The two Democratic senators dueling over the presidential nomination rushed back to Washington yesterday to team up. Senate Democrats tried to pass an expansion to the economic stimulus package already approved by the House, but Republicans blocked it. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR: There was a dash of drama to yesterday's Senate vote. Democratic leaders had waited until after Super Tuesday so Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could vote on the measure, but their support wasn't enough. The proposal would have expanded the House's $146 billion plan to provide rebates to individuals and tax breaks for businesses. It would have added rebate checks to seniors and disabled veterans on Social Security, and it would have extended jobless benefits. For North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan, it was a no-brainer.

Senator BYRON DORGAN (Democrat, North Dakota): We are required from time to time to vote on tough things here in the United States Senate, but this isn't one of them.

NAYLOR: Republicans argued that the bill had become a Christmas tree filled with expensive ornaments, including money to help poor people pay their heating bills and tax breaks for renewable energy producers. Republican leader Mitch McConnell proposed limiting the additional spending to seniors and disabled veterans and said he didn't care who got the credit.

Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): We can call it the Reed, Obama, Clinton Proposal as far as I'm concerned. The goal here is not so much to claim credit, as it is to astonish the American people and do something on a bipartisan basis and do it quickly.

NAYLOR: But Democratic leaders rejected that approach yesterday. They still hope to reach agreement on a stimulus bill by the end of the week.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.

MONTAGNE: And you can get details of the proposed stimulus packages at npr.org.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.

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