From NBC's Ken Strickland
As the Senate starts debate today on the economic stimulus bill, Republicans are urging Democratic leaders to listen to their president when they meet with him this afternoon. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell came out today quoting recent remarks from President Obama, which touted his desire for a bill free of earmarks and inclusive of Republican ideas.
"I hope [Obama] can get through to them that the way to build this package is, indeed, to do it on a bipartisan basis," McConnell said. "He needs to let them know that the measures that they are moving forward don't meet his own standard."
McConnell also noted there is Democratic resistance to the bill as it's currently written. "There is considerable -- and you're hearing it -- considerable Democratic senatorial unrest about this package. Considerable. I think there's a bipartisan feeling that this is not the way to get the economy moving."
A Senate Republican "working group" is moving forward with its own stimulus package -- a substitute for the current proposal. The cost is significantly lower at $713 billion. It's heavier on tax cuts and infrastructure spending, while dramatically reducing spending on items Republicans find questionable in their stimulative effect.
While not a truly "Senate Republican conference" proposal, the working group has about a dozen members including Martinez, McCain, Thune, Graham, and Collins, according to an aide to one of the members. The aide said at least one member was actively courting Democratic co-sponsors.