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Congress: Senate takes up stimulus

Just how could the package change, beginning today in the Senate? The Washington Post: "[S]enators in both parties hope to alter the legislation, focusing on easing the housing crisis, increasing infrastructure spending and cutting taxes on corporations. If many of these changes are accepted in the Senate, which hopes to finish voting on the plan by Friday, it could complicate the effort to work out differences between the two bills. It could also drive the overall cost of the legislation, which was $819 billion in the House version and is $887 billion in the Senate plan, much closer to the politically shaky $1 trillion mark."

More: "The largest difference between the two measures is the Senate's inclusion of a tax break to prevent upper-middle-income families from slipping into the alternative minimum tax, which was created 40 years ago to make sure that the nation's wealthiest families were not able to shield their earnings from the Internal Revenue Service. That tax break added $70 billion to the Senate price tag, and House leaders are likely to accept it in the final draft despite conservative Democrats' concerns about the cost of a provision that lawmakers patch up every fiscal year without addressing the long-term consequences."

The New York Times covers NBC's pre-Super Bowl interview with Obama and notes how the president won't deal with the details publicly of how he'd like the package to change. "The president was not specific about what provisions he might remove from the stimulus package to entice Republicans to sign on. He prodded House Democrats to remove $200 million to spruce up the Mall in Washington and millions of dollars for family planning programs that Republicans said would finance contraceptives, but those moves did not result in bipartisan support when the House voted on the plan last week."

In its write-up of the DCCC radio ads, The Hill says the Democratic committee "is going after 28 Republicans who voted against the House stimulus package with an advertising and grassroots campaign. The 'Families First' campaign accuses Republicans of putting the needs of banks before the needs of struggling families. It also goes after a handful of Republicans for voting against the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization bill."

As for Tom Daschle… He's "expected to answer questions Monday from members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has reported that Daschle recently filed amended tax returns to reflect $128,203 in back taxes and $11,964 in interest. Also, the financial disclosure form Daschle filed about a week ago shows that he made more than $200,000 in the past two years speaking to members of the industry that President Barack Obama wants him to reform."

The New York Times adds that the discovery about Daschle "offers a new window into how Washington works. It shows how in just four years an influential former senator was able to make $5 million and live a lavish lifestyle by dint of his name, connections and knowledge of the town's inner workings."

And this is what could catch fire with the electorate if senators decide not to protect one of their own and begin to show exactly how easy it is for ex-lawmakers to make money when they leave office.