(CNN) - President Obama’s hopes of passing a massive economic stimulus bill next week in the Senate could hinge on the efforts of a bipartisan pair of centrist senators.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, oppose the proposal in its current form and want to slash what they say is wasteful spending from the bill so moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats can vote for it.
“I want to see the president succeed,” Nelson told CNN. “But in this situation I want to make sure the actual package delivers the bang for the buck that we’re hoping it will.”
The two senators, known as consensus builders, will spend the weekend scrubbing the nearly $900 billion bill for spending that does not narrowly target job and economic growth.
“I want to draft a whole new approach and I’m guided by the credo: will it help turn the economy around? Will it create jobs?” Collins said.
The senators complain the bill is bogged down with spending for programs that may be worthwhile but that won’t boost the economy in the short term. As examples, Nelson pointed to $1.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health to do comparative health studies and Collins pointed to funding for pandemic flu preparedness and cyber security.
Senate Democratic leaders say they are confident they can get the 60 votes needed to pass the stimulus bill, but acknowledge it can’t be done unless they hold skeptical Democrats and attract some Republicans.
Because there are a handful of senators on each side of the aisle who are believed to be up for grabs, Nelson and Collins think their effort could determine the outcome.
“I want to go through and sort out and scrub it to see those things that are only marginally job creation or job preservation at best and not include those in this bill,” Nelson said. ‘Maybe we can get more bipartisan support if we do something of that sort.”