Biden says stimulus bill to attract Republicans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday the economic stimulus package working its way through Congress is good, but will improve and attract Republican votes.

“Could it be better? When you have two branches of government and three separate entities working on something, I’m not sure it could have gotten at this stage much better than it is,” Biden told CNBC.

“I think it’s good. I think you’ll see it get better and I also think you’ll see Republicans voting for it,” he said.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed an $825 billion package of government spending and tax cuts, and the Senate is considering a measure that could cost around $900 billion. Once that bill is approved, lawmakers from both chambers will have to hammer out their differences.

“It’s not over yet. We’ve only gone through the first phase of this,” Biden said. “I’m sure there are going to be some additional changes in this.”

“My guess is that you’re going to see maybe some additional infrastructure spending, you may see some changes in some of the things that have been put forward by the House in terms of spending, and maybe even some changes in the tax side,” he said, saying more tax cuts were possible.

Speaking on CNBC shortly after the first segment of the Biden interview aired, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said he hoped Republicans would oppose the stimulus package the Obama administration is pushing.

“I hope they (Republicans) won’t vote for it because I think we can do better. The priority shouldn’t be the stimulus package, it should be to straighten up our banking system. That will create more jobs than a stimulus would ever dream of creating,” he said.

“It’s going to layer another trillion dollars worth of debt and we’re going to be dead in the water,” he said.

Reporting by Tim Ahmann and Glenn Somerville; Editing by Neil Stempleman