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Stimulus Plan Meets More GOP Resistance
Some senators remain hopeful that they can find a more bipartisan approach than the House, particularly in the traditionally accommodating Finance Committee, which will consider its tax package Tuesday.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the finance panel, said he could "buy into 90 percent" of the emerging plan but opposes the nearly $90 billion in aid to states for Medicaid because some governors would use the money to mask poor decisions in other portions of their budgets.
"Right now, that's kind of an impediment to bipartisanship on the whole package," Grassley said.
Republicans hold 41 Senate seats, requiring total unity to block the stimulus plan by a filibuster. Democrats and Republicans have said that at least a few GOP senators will probably back the economic recovery plan because the financial crisis has become so grave.
But some key Democrats are pushing to add pieces that would result in fewer Republican votes. Pelosi and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democratic leader in the Senate, support including changes to bankruptcy laws that would allow judges to modify loans on primary residences, which they say would help alleviate the housing crisis.
Republicans and the banking industry have vehemently opposed this because it might cause mortgage interest rates to rise.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans accused Democrats of leaving them out of the process of crafting the spending side of the plan, prompting the Senate Appropriations Committee to delay taking it up.
Republicans said they believe Obama's commitment to changing the tone in Washington but question whether he can control congressional Democrats. "I don't know how much he's driving it," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.).
Obama would not be the first president to promise a bipartisan tone and find a much different attitude on Capitol Hill. Democrats chafed under the iron-fist rule of Republicans for most of 1995 to 2007, during which the toughest tactics were deployed after George W. Bush took office promising to be a "uniter, not a divider."
Some Democrats said the goal should be passing legislation that deals with the largest financial crisis in 70 years, with or without much Republican support.
"If it's passed with 63 votes or 73 votes, history won't remember it," Durbin said.
Staff writers Binyamin Appelbaum and Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.