Some bipartisan hope on key provisions of stimulus bill


Funding for Medicaid and other social services programs will likely be in whatever economic stimulus bill is passed, said both a Republican and Democratic senator after meeting with United Jewish Communities leaders on Wednesday afternoon.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said in an interview with JTA that as long as there is a bill, he expects that "safety net" programs will be part of it. Such programs, which also include a hike in food stamp funding and an extension of unemployment insurance, have been deemed critical by UJC, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Religous Action Center of Reform Judaism — which have all backed passage of the bill.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) agreed, saying that the "points of contention" in the Senate on the bill are not the issues that the Jewish community considers priorities.

"I don’t hear any United States senator saying the valuable efforts of UJC are considered some kind of rancid pork," he said. But "we’re now in a period of sausage making. There’s a lot of effort to reach out to both sides of the aisle."

The House passed an $819 billion bill last week with no Republican support. As the Senate version of the package, which had topped out around $900 billion, approached a vote on Wednesday, Senate leaders were saying they had to eliminate some provisions from the legislation because they did not yet have the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster.

About 50 UJC leaders from New York, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and Cincinnati were in Washington Wednesday to lobby members of both the House and Senate to pass the stimulus package.

"This recession, the worst since the Depression, harms our clients the most," said Larry Gottlieb of New York, "and someone’s got to speak for them. We hope we are."

The group also heard from Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who spoke about how important the legislation is, as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s senior health policy adviser Wendell Primus, who outlined the improvements to health care that would come from passage of the legislation.

Recommended from JTA