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« Strategy Memo: Stimulus Vote, Take 2 | Blog Home Page | Obama Subtly Reverses His Reversal »

Stimulus Bill Heads To Conference

The Senate agreed today to the $838 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, with three Republicans crossing over to help Democrats pass the bill. The measure passed on a 61-37 roll call vote after agreeing to the compromise amendment, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), by an identical vote tally.

Collins was joined in supporting the bill by fellow Republicans Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Arlen Specter (Pa.). Every other Republican voted against the bill and every Democrat voted for it.

The Senate and House must now meet in conference to hash out the differences between their two bills. A delicate balance in the negotiations exists: The Senate compromise got rid of certain spending measures that House Democrats were adamant about including; had they been included, it was unlikely the three Republicans would have supported the bill, thereby killing it.

If included in the final bill, there is a risk that the three Republican senators will withdraw their support. Will House Democrats support a bill that doesn't include these spending measures?

"It's a very tight calculus that Senator Reid has to confront," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said this morning. "Are we worried about that? Yes. Is the White House worried about that? Yes. Will we all be working toward ensuring we have a bill that has 60 votes in the Senate? Yes."

The Senate conferees were announced just after the final vote. They will be: Democrats Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Max Baucus (Mont.), Harry Reid (Nev.); and Republicans Thad Cochran (Miss.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa).

Hoyer said that the House conferees will be announced this afternoon, and that he expects the conference to begin immediately. He also noted that the timeline for finishing the bill is whenever they finish, not this Friday, as had been the goal so members could go home for the week-long Presidents Day recess.

UPDATE: The House conferees were announced on the House floor this afternoon. They are: Democrats David Obey (Wisc.), Charles Rangel (N.Y.), Henry Waxman (Calif.); and Republicans Dave Camp (Mich.) and Jerry Lewis (Calif.).