Pelosi Scrutinizes Rival Economic Stimulus Plan
In the Senate, Democrats are working to win enough Republican support to pump some $200 billion into the U.S. economy.
The Senate "stimulus package" is $40 billion more than the version passed by the House of Representatives, which had support from Democrats, Republicans and the White House.
Republicans squaring off with Democrats barely qualifies as news anymore. But this legislation has Democrats divided.
In an interview with Michele Norris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expresses skepticism about how the Senate Democrats would pay for their plan — even as she insists that Democrats are speaking in one voice.
"We have a difference of opinion between the House and Senate — not that we need a stimulus, not that it should go to low- and middle-income people — but we have a difference as to how expensive that package will be," she says.
Pelosi says the House has been a leader in fiscal responsibility.
"All of the bills we passed last year, we did not go into deficit, not one dollar. Everything was paid for or we realigned priorities so that there was no additional spending in any of those bills that wasn't paid for.
"We are holding [the stimulus package] to the same standard."
Pelosi notes that the House bill is historic in that it gives, for the first time, tax rebates or child tax credits to low-income people, even if they don't pay income tax. The rebates are based, instead, on payroll taxes, including FICA contributions such as Social Security.
The House bill also changed the scope of President Bush's original bill, in which the rebates went to those who are paying income tax and included the wealthiest people in America. The House bill puts a cap on who would receive the rebate, and distributes $28 billion to 35 million families in America.
The Senate bill, on the other hand, aims to extend stimulus-package benefits further, to low-income seniors and small businesses.
Pelosi says she, too, would like the plan to include more people. But she is concerned about the cost of the Senate bill.
"If you have endless money, I would like mothers who receive a welfare check to be able to get a rebate, but this was geared to people who paid taxes and it went all the way down to people who make $3,000 a year, so it went down very low. I'd like to include the seniors. Maybe that will be, in the end, in the package. But it will cost more money," she says.
Efforts to jumpstart the economy don't end with the stimulus package, which is just one piece in a larger picture, Pelosi says.
"Our Democratic agenda — and we hope that it will be bipartisan — is to create jobs while we meet other needs," such as health care, education or infrastructure, she says.
Pelosi also reiterates her pledge to stay neutral on the Democratic presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
"Either one of them will be a great president, either one will make history when elected. And I am absolutely certain that we will have a Democratic president," Pelosi says.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.