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Daschle: Economic stimulus bill probably dead

By Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Tuesday he will pull economic stimulus legislation from the floor if Democratic and GOP versions of the bill fail during procedural votes Wednesday, as expected.

"With great regret, I will pull the bill tomorrow, with the offer that should [Republicans] choose at any time to sit down and to sincerely want to find some solution, I am ready, we are ready and we will do that at a moment's notice," said Daschle, D-South Dakota.

President Bush and the Senate's Republican leader, Trent Lott of Mississippi, expressed disappointment with Daschle's decision.

"There's a lot of workers who hurt, and they need help. Our economy, while there's some good news, needs more stimulus," Bush said after returning to the White House from a trip to Pittsburgh.

"I still think we need to pass a bill that will help workers and help stimulate the economy. I'm just disappointed."

"It's a shame that Sen. Daschle has decided to start off the year on this kind of partisan note," Lott said in a statement.

"The Daschle Democrats, in a cynical effort to score political points against this president, have chosen to fire a direct shot into a limping economy by killing the economic stimulus package."

Both Democratic and Republican versions of an economic stimulus bill are expected to come up for procedural votes Wednesday.

Under Senate rules, the measures would need 60 votes to move forward. Daschle said he does not think either one will get enough support, at which point he'll move on to other business.

The economic stimulus legislation has been floundering in Congress since last year. While the GOP-controlled House passed a stimulus bill, it could never get past the gridlocked Senate.

The Senate returned to the issue following its Christmas recess three weeks ago, when the Democrats offered what they called a "consensus" package with four provisions they said both sides agreed upon.

Republicans said the Democrats' package, which does not include any acceleration of the $1.35 trillion tax cut passed last year, would not do enough to stimulate the economy.

Even before Daschle announced his move, senior White House aides could smell defeat.

"Whether a rabbit can be pulled out of a hat, I don't know, but the odds are against that," one official said.

Other White House aides bitterly denounced the Democratic leadership for stalling the stimulus bill and refusing to allow it to come to the floor for a final vote, where it would need only a simple majority to pass.

"I'm getting tired of being asked, 'What is the White House prepared to do to move the stimulus bill?'" one senior official said.

"The White House can't do the Senate's job. I think we need to send some of the worker training money in the budget over to the Senate so we can train them how to do their jobs."

Lott said Republicans simply wanted an "up-or-down vote" on the issue because 51 senators, a majority, supported the House-passed bill.

"Why is Sen. Daschle hiding behind procedure?" asked Lott in his statement.

Democrats, however, said the Republicans were the ones playing procedural games by not allowing a straight vote on their version of the stimulus legislation

Despite the political bravado, the appetite for legislation to stimulate the economy has waned among both Democrats and Republicans since last year as economic figures look more promising.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress two weeks ago that the time for stimulus legislation had come and gone.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, a key Senate moderate who has supported Bush on economic issues, said Saturday she would not vote for a stimulus bill.

"I think it is fair to say that there is a growing number of economists that question the stimulus," Daschle said.

"But keep in mind, one thing they did say is, 'Do no harm.' And I think the Republican package does serious harm to the budget, to fairness in tax law and to a number of other issues that the American people care deeply about."


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