Senate reaches deal on spending bill; GOP and House still skeptical.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 7 2009 4:32 AM

Senate Finally Gets Stimulated

Everyone leads with news of a compromise reached by Senate Democrats and a few moderate Republicans on the stimulus bill, which now appears to have enough support to pass the Senate. The compromise cut about $110 billion from the previous Senate version of the bill, and the new bill weighs in at about $820 billion. The cuts included some of President Obama's signature proposals, including the plans to computerize medical records and expand broadband Internet to rural areas. A White House aide told the Wall Street Journal that the compromise was "a strategic retreat."

The cuts included $40 billion in aid to states, half of a proposed $15 billion in "incentive grants" for states that meet certain goals for their initial education allotment, and $5 billion from a plan to help unemployed workers pay for health care coverage, according to the Washington Post. And the New York Times mentions "$20 billion proposed for school construction; $8 billion to refurbish federal buildings and make them more energy efficient [and] $1 billion for the early childhood program Head Start."

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Most Republicans, though, remained unhappy with the bill because it included spending for pet Democratic projects that weren't focused on stimulating the economy. And House Democrats weren't happy with it, either, for the opposite reason. The Post quotes House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., saying "I don't think much of what the Senate is doing." The bill is expected to come up for a vote on Monday.

Obama hits the road this weekend, traveling to Indiana and Florida to try to drum up public support for the bill. Explains the Los Angeles Times: "Obama's travels are 'a way of transferring the legislation from a Pelosi-Reid face to an Obama face,' said Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster. 'And the Obama face is a more attractive one.' "

The LAT has an analysis of John McCain's role in the stimulus negotiations, which are causing conflict between two of his trademarks: bipartisanship and opposition to excessive spending. So far, the latter is winning out and he led opposition to the compromise bill. "One of the reasons why Republicans lost the last election is because our base, who are concerned about our stewardship of their tax dollars, believes we got on a spending spree," he said.

The economic news was worse earlier in the day, when new job numbers came out and showed that the unemployment rate was 7.6 percent and that nearly 600,000 jobs were lost in January. "The recession has deepened and we're in the worst part of it now, following the financial crisis and before government action can have an effect," one economist told the LAT.

Even the prospect of a stimulus bill passing sent stocks up. The Dow Jones rose 2.7 percent and infrastructure-related companies did especially well, the WSJ noted: Caterpillar rose 5.3 percent. U.S. Steel rose 10 percent and steel-and-grain shipper Genco Shipping & Trading added 8.7 percent.

The Post and NYT front news that the father of Pakistan's nuclear program—who then sold nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, Libya, and Iran—was freed yesterday from house arrest. The NYT suggested the move was "intended to shore up support for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, which has been derided in the Pakistani press as being too close to the United States." Both papers note that the investigation into his smuggling network has gone badly and that there is a danger that his release could reactivate it. "It is possible, U.S. officials concede, that Khan and his allies shared nuclear secrets with still-unknown countries and, perhaps, terrorist groups, as well," the Post writes.

The NYT has a good front-page exclusive on a botched military mission in Uganda that the United States supported and funded. The mission, carried out by the Ugandan military, was intended to "crush" the infamous Lord's Resistance Army, which had been holed up in a village in neighboring Congo. But the offensive failed and the LRA fanned out, committing massacres that killed up to 900 civilians. Critics said the United States should have known the operation would have ended in massacres. American officials told the paper the United States had 17 military officers advising the Ugandans and equipping them with "satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel." The assistance was approved personally by President Bush.

Lonely Planet: With all the news of decreasing violence in Iraq, you might think it's ready for at least a few intrepid tourists. Not so, says the NYT, which chronicles the adventures of a 33-year-old Italian who tried to visit Iraq on the cheap. He was detained by Iraqi police after taking the bus to Fallujah—where he became the "first western leisure visitor" to the city—and his trip came to an end. Friday night he was being held by the police "for his own protection," and the Italian Embassy arranged a flight for him to leave early this morning.

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