WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Senate Democrats Thursday pushed their economic stimulus package through the Senate Finance Committee on a party-line vote.
Republicans unanimously bucked it as a partisan package of sundry spending items, setting the stage for a battle between the two parties on the Senate floor as early as Friday. The Senate product will also later need to be combined with another, very different, stimulus bill drafted by House Republicans.
While partisan bickering punctuated Thursday's committee action, Sen. John Breaux, D-La., dismissed it as political drama before real legislative horse-trading begins.
"I would say that we are in the Kabuki phase of writing this legislation, when we both sort of dance around one another," Breaux said. "Republicans are going to say terrible things about the Democrats' bill and Democrats are going to say terrible things about the Republicans' bill."
For now, both parties decried the breakdown of a bipartisan spirit as Congress races to move a package designed to stimulate the economy nearly a week after new unemployment data showed that 415,000 Americans lost their jobs during October.
"Despite all the window dressing, today's committee product is designed to be partisan," said committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
The Democrats' $67 billion plan includes $14 billion in tax rebates for low-income workers plus another $24 billion to expand health care and unemployment benefits, $27 billion to spur business investment, and more than $5 billion to help New York City recover from the Sept. 11 attacks.
In contrast, Senate Republicans have embraced an $89 billion proposal with $14 billion in cash payments to low income people, $27 billion dedicated to speeding up income tax cuts, and $48 billion in breaks for businesses. House Republicans' plan would, among other things, accelerate tax cuts established in President Bush's massive tax cut passed earlier this year.
Democrats panned the Republicans' proposals as payoffs to rich Americans and big business.
"In fact, it's just a collection of tax breaks that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest Americans at the expense of everyone else," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said.
Republicans attacked a raft of seemingly unrelated spending programs in the Democrats' bill, such as a $220 million plan to purchase agricultural commodities like, apples, apricots and asparagus that experienced low prices over the past two years.
Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., called the Democrats' bill a "grab bag of partisan spending proposals."