2 Feb 2009

Republicans demand changes to US stimulus bill

10:40 am on 2 February 2009

Senior Republican senators warned on Sunday their party was unlikely to back President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill without changes to the nearly $US900 billion package.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he doubted the economic stimulus bill can pass the Senate in its current form, and needs more specific focus on the housing sector and tax relief.

He offered a Republican plan to provide government-backed, 4% fixed mortgages to credit-worthy home buyers, saying it could save them an average of $US5,600 a year. A senior Democratic senator said the plan had merit.

The Senate is expected to take up consideration of the Democrats' stimulus bill this week after the House of Representatives approved a smaller $US825 billion bill last week without the support of a single Republican.

Congress is rushing to meet a mid-February deadline set by Mr Obama for enacting the legislation aimed at lifting the economy out of a 13-month-long recession.

Some of the controversial projects in the huge US economic stimulus package are seen as valuable bargaining chips in winning support from skeptical Republicans.

The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin of Illinois, said Democrats were open to Republican amendments to the stimulus package.

Democrats now control 58 seats in the Senate and are leading in one undecided race. Under the Senate rules, 60 votes are needed to overcome any procedural hurdles raised by Republicans.