US President Barack Obama has stated that the stimulus package under debate is all the more urgent based on a report by the US Department of Labour on Friday revealing that the unemployment rate had surged to 7.6%.
AFP - President Barack Obama and his Democratic Senate allies pushed Friday to pass his giant economic stimulus plan, as surging job loss figures piled pressure on US lawmakers to take action.
"It is inexcusable and irresponsible to get bogged down in distraction and delay while millions of Americans are being put out of work," Obama said in prepared remarks. "The situation could not be more serious."
Labor Department data showed the US unemployment rate surged in January to 7.6 percent, the highest since 1992, while the nearly 600,000 jobs lost was the worst such number since 1974.
"We're not in a depression," Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid warned colleagues as they opened a fifth day of deliberations. "We're not there, but we've got to do something to turn this around or we will be."
Away from the bitter debate in the Senate chamber, a group of moderate Democrats and Republicans huddled behind closed doors, examining ways to build support by paring back the nearly 940-billion-dollar bill.
Reid praised the group's efforts, which reportedly included plans to shave about 100 billion dollars from the package, and declared: "I think that we're going to be able to work something out."
But even as the top Democrat suggested a possible vote on the package between 5-7 pm (2200 GMT-0000 GMT), Republicans leveled renewed attacks on the bill and a leading member of the moderate faction expressed doubts.
Asked for prospects of a breakthrough deal, Democratic Senator Ben Nelson said the group would work towards a compromise but "I don't know if we have an expectation yet" of whether their efforts would pay off.
And Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seized on recent public opinion polls showing a drop in support for the overall package, saying: "The more the American people learn about this bill, the less they like it.
"Putting another one trillion dollars on the nation’s credit card isn’t something we should do lightly," he said. "We need to get a stimulus. But more importantly, we need to get it right."
The debate came a day after Obama fired searing attacks on Republicans, while Reid said he hoped for compromise but warned Democrats, who have 58 of the Senate's 100 seats, could try to muscle the bill to passage.
"I am sure that at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, members of the Senate are reading these same numbers this morning," Obama said Friday in his prepared speech.
"I hope they share my sense of urgency and draw the same, unmistakable conclusion: the situation could not be more serious, these numbers demand action."
"It is time for Congress to act. It is time to pass an Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to get our economy moving again," said the president.
Reid warned late Thursday that if the Senate found itself "spinning our wheels," he could invoke a parliamentary procedure to cut off debate, setting the stage for final passage as long as Democrats can rally 60 votes.
Senate passage would trigger a "conference" with the House of Representatives to craft a compromise between their rival bills, followed by a new round of voting in each chamber to send the final legislation to Obama -- who has set a mid-February deadline.
Democrats were still piling pressure on Republicans to join them, a hard sell after not one Republican voted in favor last week when the House of Representatives approved its version.
Republicans charged that the measure had too much spending and too few tax cuts and that they had been shut out of the legislative process.
"Now is the time to act -- but it's not the time to act foolishly," said McConnell.
Date created : 2009-02-06