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Democrats unveil $110 billion stimulus package

By Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A House Democratic task force Thursday announced a $110 billion spending and tax cut package designed to kick-start the nation's economy in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

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The stimulus package will be offered at a hearing of the Ways and Means Committee on Friday as an alternative to a Republican plan, although some details of the Democratic plan are still being negotiated.

The Republican proposal has not been announced but is expected to be somewhat smaller and based on tax relief as opposed to additional spending.

The $110 billion would be spent on top of the approximately $50 billion already approved by Congress in response to the attacks, Democrats said.

Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, said the plan will include rebates of $300 to $600 for individuals and families who did not get a rebate check from the tax relief package passed earlier this year.

Most of those 35 million people earn less than $35,000 per year and are more likely to spend the rebate check immediately, which would boost the economy, Gephardt said.

The plan extends unemployment benefits an extra 13 weeks to people who lost their jobs in the wake of the attacks and expands the number of people eligible for such benefits.

The package includes money to cover 75 percent of premium costs for health insurance for people who lost their jobs and makes it easier for others to get health insurance coverage through Medicaid.

Beside tax relief for individuals, the plan includes tax breaks for businesses designed to spur capital investment.

Gephardt said the Democrats would push for $25 billion in spending to improve security in the nation's courts, bridges, buildings and roads. Another $3 billion would go toward school construction and $7 billion would be designated for job training and economic development in urban and rural areas.

Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas, complained the GOP proposal is based entirely on tax cuts.

"This is what the country wants," he said. "Not another gigantic tax cut package that the Republicans are offering."

But even some Democrats are not fully satisfied with the recommendations of the Democratic Economic Task Force, formed after September 11.

Members of the Democrats' Progressive Caucus want to add an additional $62 billion for more unemployment benefits. Members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs in the Democratic Party complained the plan spends too much.

Democrats will meet Friday morning to vote as a caucus to accept or reject the task force's recommendation. Aides said they expected the package to be accepted, despite concerns by some members.


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