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Lawmakers push dueling economic aid plans

October 14, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House Democrats and Republicans offered competing economic aid plans Monday as they jockeyed for political advantage on addressing the crisis.

Democrats scheduled hearings to consider a postelection stimulus package that could cost as much as $150 billion.

Republicans, spooked by an issue that has damaged their presidential nominee, John McCain, as well as GOP House and Senate candidates, called for more tax cuts and energy exploration to help the economy.

"We're at a time where we have to tighten our belt, take ourselves into survival mode," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) after a meeting with economic experts at the Capitol. "We plan to go forward expeditiously, but not hastily" after being "steamrolled" on the $700-billion financial industry rescue.

Pelosi would not put a price tag on the package, but said it might have to be larger than the $61-billion bill that passed the House mostly along party lines last month but died in the Senate. She has said a plan costing $150 billion is needed.

Extending jobless benefits and spending federal money on infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, as well as sending food aid to the poor and money to states to pay Medicaid bills, are "priorities," Pelosi said. She did not rule out another round of tax rebates to follow the $600 to $1,200 checks most individuals and couples received through the stimulus package enacted in February.

In a letter to Pelosi, House Republican leader John A. Boehner of Ohio said he agreed "wholeheartedly that Congress should take additional measures to get our economy back on track, and we should not wait until January."

But Boehner said none of the Democrats' ideas would stabilize the economy and called their approach "irresponsible." Republicans are calling for corporate and investment tax cuts, more energy exploration, federally insuring 100% of bank transaction accounts, and other measures.

The White House had threatened to veto Democratic stimulus packages, but the rhetoric has softened as the economy has worsened.

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