Emerging from a closed-door meeting with economists and House Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that she is directing select committees to hold hearings over the next few weeks to shape the details of a forthcoming economic stimulus bill.
The committees expected to meet include Education and Labor, Agriculture, Financial Services, and Oversight and Government Reform.
Pelosi dodged questions about whether she is lining up a lame-duck session for the stimulus bill, saying only that she will see what the hearings yield before scheduling Congress to come back. She noted that committees may have to have some hearings right after the election as well.
Democrats continue to push for passage of a possible $150 billion stimulus package that includes infrastructure investments, food stamps, unemployment insurance and state Medicaid assistance. Pelosi said rebate checks and tax credits are certainly being weighed but are not the top priority.
Given the turbulence on Wall Street, Pelosi framed the package as part of a broader recovery initiative that will include rewriting the rules for financial institutions at the start of the next Congress. She said committees will discuss if and how to pay for the bill; however, she signaled that the recovery measure may not need to be paid for since it will contain items intended to stimulate the economy.
Meanwhile, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) sent a letter to Pelosi laying out GOP policy alternatives.
It is irresponsible not to pay for a stimulus bill, and nothing currently being discussed by the Majority as stimulus will stabilize the economy long-term, the letter states. Boehner points to offshore drilling and corporate tax cuts as alternative stimulus items.
Pelosi said she has been working closely with the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), to hash out the details of a stimulus plan they can all support.
What we want is something that will have legitimacy because it will have consensus, so we are working closely with him, Pelosi said. What we have gotten from the Republicans is rejection.
The Speaker said she hopes the stimulus package can be put together in a bipartisan way, but lamented that the last bipartisan effort in the House the $700 billion financial bailout bill turned into a largely Republican package with mostly Democratic votes.
If its going to happen that way, we might as well write the bill ourselves and do the right thing for the American people, Pelosi said.