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Stimulus Negotiations Begin Immediately

House and Senate conferees were expected to begin their first conference meeting on the economic stimulus at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, barely two hours after the Senate passed its $838 billion version of the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who in an unusual move appointed himself as a conferee, said he hopes to have “the first cut,” or first draft, by tomorrow afternoon.

“I think we can get most of our work done in the next 24 hours,” he said.

Reid said he decided to negotiate the bill himself — along with the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Appropriations and Finance panels — in order to resolve differences between the House and Senate more quickly. That’s especially important considering that the three Senate Republicans who gave Reid the votes he needed for passage are expected to have tight parameters for their continued support of a conference report.

“This is an emergency. We have to move this quickly and we have to do it with as much direction as we can,” said Reid of his role as a conferee.

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