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Democrats push vote on huge US stimulus plan

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid abruptly halted debate on a US$937 billion rescue bill late yesterday, but said lawmakers would resume work today and remained upbeat they would pass the measure demanded by President Barack Obama to combat a deepening recession.

"I would hope that we could complete this legislation tomorrow (and) I'm cautiously optimistic," Reid told colleagues after a third day of considering amendments to the measure.

Obama urged members of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives to resolve their differences and get a final bill to him within the next week or so.

"If we do not move swiftly to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an economy that is already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe," Obama said during a meeting with House Democrats in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Reid said if there is no Senate progress today he will file a motion to set up a showdown procedural vote for Sunday.

About a third of the Senate package is composed of tax relief, with the rest devoted to spending on such projects as rebuilding roads and bridges and schools.

Republicans want more tax relief and less spending. They complain some projects would do little to stimulate the economy or create jobs. Democrats say the spending Republicans call wasteful amounts to less than 1 percent of the package.

Reid said he's confident he can muster the 60 votes needed in the 100-member chamber to move to end debate and head toward a vote on passage of the bill, perhaps on Monday.

With a group of about 18 moderate Senate Republicans and Democrats seeking an agreement of their own to trim the package by roughly US$100 billion to US$837 billion, Obama signaled that might be acceptable -- even though Senate Democrats warned earlier in the day it might be inadequate.

"Our original figure was roughly in the 800 range. There have been some changes to our framework ... but that's, I think, the scale that we need to deliver for the American people," Obama told reporters while en route to Williamsburg.


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