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US Senate to Vote on Economic Stimulus


U.S. senators vote in the coming week on an economic stimulus plan that is more than $10 billion bigger than a deal backed by President Bush and the House of Representatives. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

Politicians in Washington all agree that the U.S. economy needs help. Higher fuel costs and a declining housing market have hurt consumers and business. Growth in the fourth quarter of last year was just 0.6 percent.

President Bush and bipartisan leaders in the House of Representatives worked out a plan for $146 billion in tax rebates and business incentives, including a $600 refund for many middle-income taxpayers.

But senators want to add more than $10 billion to that plan. They will vote in the coming week on $500 refunds for twice as many taxpayers including wealthier Americans, disabled veterans, and senior citizens not included in the House plan.

Some Senate Democrats also want to extend unemployment benefits, food aid, and home heating assistance.

West Virginia Governor Democrat Joe Manchin used his party's weekly radio address Saturday to commend bipartisan efforts on a timely and temporary economic stimulus. But he also took a swipe at the Bush administration and its handling of the economy.

"But we all know that a temporary fix is just that, temporary," he explained. "Democrats across the country are committed to a more enduring challenge, retaining and creating the good jobs with benefits that our people deserve."

On Friday, the government reported that the U.S. economy lost jobs last month for the first time in more than four years.

President Bush, speaking to business leaders in Kansas City on Friday, said it is time for the Senate to take decisive action on the stimulus package.

"It's very important for the Senate to finish their work quickly, because the sooner we can get money into our consumers' hands the more likely it is that the economy will recover from this period of uncertainty," he said.

First lady Laura Bush delivered the president's Saturday radio address. She spoke about risk factors for heart disease, including smoking, lack of exercise, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, family history, and being overweight. February is American Heart Month.

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