Durbin: Senate Stimulus Will Get Money Out Faster

Posted January 22, 2009 at 3:06pm

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday that the Senate would tweak its version of an $825 billion economic stimulus bill to make sure federal dollars are injected into the economy quickly, a response to concerns that the House package doesn’t move dollars fast enough.

“The Senate version of this is going to have a faster spendout over a shorter period of time,” Durbin said after emerging from a Conference meeting with three renowned economists. “We’re sensitive to that, and that’s what we heard in there. You can’t spend it all immediately, but you’ve got to really move it in fast if its going to have impact, and I think you’re going to hear the comeback from the [Obama] administration is that they’re exactly right.”

Durbin was responding to questions about the decline in GOP support for the stimulus package after a recent Congressional Budget Office report that concluded only 38 percent of $350 billion of spending in the House economic stimulus plan could be disbursed before the end of 2010.

Durbin also said he would be pushing to include provisions that encourage banks to refinance troubled mortgages as well help distressed banks recapitalize.

Meanwhile, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said he expects the Obama administration to send up a letter in the next day or two that will clarify its intent to get the money out for government projects as soon as possible. On Wednesday, Conrad had expressed concern about the CBO report’s conclusions.

“In conversations with the administration, they have talked to us about making changes to get money out faster,” said Conrad, who added that he has spoken to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, economic adviser Lawrence Summers and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag. “They are going to assure us that 75 percent of the money of the total package will get out within 18 months.”

Like Durbin, Conrad also advocated replacing some of the longer-term projects in the House stimulus to deal with the housing foreclosure crisis and bank capitalization troubles.

It was unclear whether the changes to the Senate bill and assurances from President Barack Obama would assuage GOP concerns about the bill, however.