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Senate Braces for Stimulus Showdown

As the Senate gears up to debate the economic stimulus package this week, Republicans on Sunday stepped up their criticism while Democrats expressed confidence of passage — although the final shape of the legislation remains unclear. “I see support for this eroding,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said on “Fox New Sunday,” adding that GOP Senators likely won’t rally behind the measure unless “major structural changes” were accepted. Kyl blasted the $800 billion spending package, which he said “wastes a ton of money” by creating 34 new programs and offering $500 billion in tax rebates. But even as he lambasted the measure, Kyl maintained that “our effort is not to delay the bill.” Instead, Republicans want to incorporate additional tax cuts and language targeted at recharging the housing market. Appearing on the same program, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted that “some Democrats have concerns” about the stimulus package, but predicted its passage this week or the week after. The legislation that the Senate ultimately passes could include stronger oversight to avoid the kind of mismanagement in the Troubled Assets Relief Program that has angered so many lawmakers, he said. House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) echoed those calls Sunday morning when he appeared on ABC’s “This Week.” Frank criticized “the complete absence of regulation in the financial sector that has led to a disaster” in the nation’s economy. But as he called for more oversight — and more spending — to stimulate the economy, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said Congress should instead reel in spending and demand that financial companies that have already received assistance from the government should spend it. “We’re rewarding failure by bailing out the banks. Obviously we need to loosen credit, but what we’ve been doing has not been working,” DeMint told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who sits on the Banking and Appropriations committees, also spoke out against the stimulus bill during her appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The Texan has maintained that additional spending will prolong the nation’s economic woes, rather than stimulate the struggling financial markets.

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