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Cheney, Lott slam Senate Democrats as 'obstructionist'

Tom Daschle
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, was targeted Sunday by GOP leaders.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the economic stimulus bill and other Bush administration initiatives stuck in the Senate, two top GOP leaders took direct aim Sunday at Senate Democrats and their leader, Tom Daschle, accusing them of blocking legislation they say the country needs.

"Tom Daschle, unfortunately, has decided, I think in this case, to be more of an obstructionist," Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's Meet The Press. "Philosophical differences are fine. What we're seeing, though, unfortunately, is that efforts are being made here to artificially erect barriers to Senate action."

"Unfortunately, the Senate is becoming a black hole of inactivity," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, on CNN's Late Edition, noting that Bush's education reform package, his energy bill and numerous presidential nominations still await Senate approval. "Let's stop that. The people want action."

But the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Majority Whip Harry Reid of Nevada, defended Daschle and the way he has handled legislation coming over from the GOP-controlled House.

"Thank goodness we're here and we're in control of the Senate," he said on Fox News Sunday. "Tom Daschle has frustrated especially the House Republicans because he's so good. ... [He] has absolute, good control of the Democratic caucus. We work with him. And I think he's been a real thorn in their side because he is so articulate in his own way."

Lott, also interviewed on Fox News Sunday, also said he thinks it is time "to fish or cut bait" this week on the economic stimulus bill.

"If we can't get it done this coming week, then when we come back at the end of January, we can assess where we are [economically,]" he said. "If the economy is not showing continued signs of improvement, then we can consider it again."

Though Lott said that he still believes an economic stimulus bill is necessary, "I've always said, and I'm sure Democrats will say the same thing, I'd rather have no bill than a bad bill."

Lott said the Democratic and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate should set a deadline of 5 p.m. Wednesday for coming up with an acceptable bill. If not, "we'll just have to move on," he told Fox.

House and Senate negotiators have been trying for several days to come up with a stimulus package, which President Bush has said he wants on his desk before Christmas. The GOP-controlled House has already passed a bill with a substantial package of business tax cuts broadly opposed by Senate Democrats. The Senate, nearly evenly divided between the two parties, has been unable to come up with a bill at all.

Bush has called for a stimulus bill that accelerates individual tax cuts passed earlier this year and includes business tax cuts to accelerate job growth, and he has also called for extending unemployment insurance for people who lost their jobs in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But Bush has resisted Democratic calls for more direct spending and fewer tax cuts.

Cheney said Sunday, "moving the tax cuts forward and making them deeper" is an "integral" part of getting the economy out of recession.

"If we move a stimulus bill now, before the end of the year, I think we can expect a recovery next year," he said. "The quicker we get started, the better. The quicker we get started, the fewer people are going to lose their jobs and the faster we're going to be able to create the kind of economic growth and prosperity that will guarantee jobs for all Americans."

But Reid said "it appears to me that the Republicans are protesting a little too much" about inaction on the stimulus package, accusing GOP leaders of being unwilling to negotiate.

"We want a package. We're willing to do one," he said. "They won't talk to us."

Dick Cheney
Vice President Dick Cheney called Daschle "more of an obstructionist" on NBC's Meet the Press.  

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, said Sunday she thinks the tax cuts passed earlier this year at Bush's behest ought to be delayed, rather than accelerated as the president wants

"Given where we are now with the recession, with the war on terrorism, I just don't think it's in our best interest to go forward with the tax cuts," she said on Meet The Press. "We've got big problems up ahead ... I don't think we've spent enough on homeland security."

She also called Daschle "a great leader for our country because what he's saying is, you know, with all due respect, we don't think that this is right for our nation."


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