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N.C. Delegation Debates Economy Plans After State of the Union

Posted January 28, 2008
Updated January 29, 2008

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— North Carolina's congressional delegation joined with President Bush on Monday to urge the quick passage of an economic stimulus package brokered between members of both parties.

But beyond that $150 billion plan, the state's congressional leaders sparred over past efforts and future plans to mold the economies of both the nation and North Carolina.

Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler disagreed with President Bush's plan to pursue new free trade agreements with the likes of South Korea, Panama and Columbia, arguing that similar agreements in the past have sent North Carolina manufacturing jobs overseas.

"The short-term stimulus is a good quick solution, but we want to be able to sustain this economy for years to come," Shuler said in an interview after Bush's final State of the Union address. "We need to be able to compete globally."

But Republican Sen. Richard Burr said he believes North Carolina has transitioned well from a manufacturing economy to a leader in medical research and biotechnology amid trade agreements with Central and South America. He instead argued for improvements in the economy by restraint in spending and earmarks - something Bush laid out in his speech.

"We've never gotten through the earmark process what the population of the state suggests we should," Burr said in a conference call. "North Carolina will perform better if we're in a competitive process with everybody in the country."

Republican Rep. Walter Jones, meanwhile, said the economy would also benefit by making Bush's tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 permanent.

The economic stimulus plan - a rapidly brokered deal designed to stave off recession through tax rebates for families and incentives for businesses to invest in new plants and equipment - has come together with little objection.

The package would provide rebates to more than 100 million families and give billions of dollars in incentives to businesses. Leaders in both parties have endorsed the plan.

"The bill is a good first step toward jump starting a sluggish economy and providing real assistance to lower- and middle-income families and seniors," said Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge.

Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield only pleaded Monday that the measure include "rebates for seniors, a temporary increase in food stamps and an extension of unemployment benefits." Republican Rep. Robin Hayes only said he wished the plan had more provisions for rural communities. Both urged quick passage for the plan.

Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole said "it's now time for Congress to get down to business and produce results" on the economic stimulus package.

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) said “I was pleased tonight to hear the President talk about the bipartisan economic stimulus package. The bill is a good first step towards jump starting a sluggish economy and providing real assistance to lower- and middle-income families and seniors. The stimulus package was a bipartisan effort, and I hope that Congress and the President can continue to work together in a bipartisan manner."

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards said “the president tonight renewed his call for an economic recovery plan. But the plan he and Congress have offered leaves out tens of millions of Americans who need help the most. This plan would take months to have any impact, and the people I meet everyday on the campaign trail do not have months to wait. These people are hurting now and need this help now. "

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