House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she hopes Congress can return this month to approve spending measures to stimulate the depressed economy. She said much depends on finding common ground with the soon-to-depart Bush administration, which more often than not has been at odds with the Democratic majority.
At a postelection news conference, Pelosi said a new economic relief plan in the lame-duck session could set the stage for more extensive stimulus legislation in the new Congress when Democrat Barack Obama is president and Democrats have larger majorities in the House and the Senate.
The economic crisis has worsened since the House passed a $61 billion aid bill in September, she said. “The need for more has grown.”
Pelosi, D-Calif., said she was in communication with the White House about a stimulus bill.
But White House spokesman Tony Fratto said there was no change in the administration’s opposition to a measure similar to the one in September that focused on increased federal spending to rejuvenate the economy.
Passing economic aid legislation this year would require the acquiescence of Senate Republicans, who blocked Democratic attempts in September to consider a $56 billion bill that paralleled the House-passed legislation.
“The only way we can get anything done is with the cooperation of House and Senate Republicans and the White House,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
House Republican leader John Boehner said his party agreed on the need to strengthen the economy. “But it should come in the form of pro-growth policies that create new jobs, provide tax relief, and lower energy costs — not hundreds of billions in new government spending masquerading as ’economic stimulus,”’ said Boehner, R-Ohio.
President Bush last February signed bipartisan legislation that sent rebate checks of $600 to $1,200 to most individuals and couples and awarded tax breaks to businesses investing in new plants and equipment.
But pressure grew on Congress to step in again amid the financial crisis that unfolded in September and October. The House legislation would have extended unemployment insurance, provided additional food stamp assistance, given states help in covering Medicaid costs and backed the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
House lawmakers are scheduled to return to Washington on Nov. 17 to choose party leaders for the next session of Congress.
That could provide the opportunity to consider a stimulus bill that might be a prelude to a larger economic recovery plan next year. “We’re talking probably in the neighborhood of $100 billion,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday in an interview with CNBC.
The Senate plans to be in session the week of Nov. 17, ostensibly to consider a bill dealing with wilderness areas, national heritage areas and historic sites. That could be pushed aside if an agreement could be reached on taking up a stimulus bill.