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US Congress Fails To Pass Economic Stimulus Bill

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

21 December 2001

Although the Republican control of the US House of Representatives ensured a vote in favour of President George W.Bush's revised economic stimulus package on Thursday, the legislation failed to make any headway in the Senate, where only three right-wing Democrats were prepared to back a stimulus bill, seven short of the number required to force it through against majority Democrat opposition.

The House bill, worth $150bn over ten years, included improved unemployment insurance benefits and refundable tax credits for laid-off workers to purchase health insurance, and a scaled-down repeal of the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax in an attempt to placate Senate Democrats. But they saw the bill as little more than a procedural gimmick which stood no chance in the Senate and was a transparent attempt to shift blame for the debacle away from Republican intransigence.

After President Bush had been to the Capitol to meet Congressional leaders, Senate Democrat Majority Leader Tom Daschle dashed his hopes: "It would not be my intention to bring it up because it does not represent the sort of compromise we hoped to achieve here," he said. Deputy Majority Leader Harry Reid said: "I hope the American public understands the charade and that's what it is."

Dennis Hastert, the Republican House speaker, accused the Senate of walking away from legislation that would help Americans suffering from the economic slump. "If I was president I'd call the Congress back the 2nd day of January and finish the work," he said.

Congress will now adjourn for the holidays without any further attempt to salvage a plan from the wreckage of partisan negotiations that have ended by seeming to have more to do with electioneering for next year's congressional elections than with saving the nation's economy.

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