House OKs Obama's economic stimulus plan 244-188
(AP) - In a swift victory for President Barack Obama,the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819billion stimulus bill Wednesday night, filled with new spending andtax cuts at the core of the young adminstration's revival plan forthe desperately ailing economy.
The vote was 244-188.
"We don't have a moment to spare," Obama declared at the WhiteHouse as congressional allies hastened to do his bidding in theface of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
See how Obama?s stimulus plan could help Long Island
The vote sent the bill to the Senate, where debate is expectedto begin as early as this week on a companion measure alreadytaking shape. Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislationready for Obama's signature by mid-February.
A mere eight days after Inauguration Day, Speaker Nancy Pelosisaid Tuesday's events heralded a new era. "The ship of state isdifficult to turn," said the California Democrat. "But that iswhat we must do. That is what President Obama called us to do inhis inaugural address."
With unemployment at its highest level in a quarter-century, thebanking industry wobbling despite the infusion of staggering sumsof bailout money and states struggling with budget crises,Democrats said the legislation was desperately needed.
"Another week that we delay is another 100,000 or more peopleunemployed. I don't think we want that on our consciences," saidRep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House AppropriationsCommittee and one of the leading architects of the legislation.
Republicans said the bill was short on tax cuts and containedtoo much spending, much of it wasteful and unlikely to helplaid-off Americans.
The party's leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, said the measure"won't create many jobs, but it will create plenty of programs andprojects through slow-moving government spending." A GOPalternative, comprised almost entirely of tax cuts, was defeated,266-170, moments before the final vote.
On the final vote, the legislation drew overwhelming supportamong Democrats while all but a few Republicans opposed it.
The White House-backed legislation includes an estimated $544 infederal spending and $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals andbusinesses.
Included is money for traditional job-creating programs such ashighway construction and mass transit projects. But the measuretickets far more for unemployment benefits, health care and foodstamp increases designed to aid victims of the worst economicdownturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Tens of billions of additional dollars would go to the states,which confront the prospect of deep budget cuts of their own. Thatmoney marks an attempt to ease the recession's impact on schoolsand law enforcement. With funding for housing weatherization andother provisions, the bill also makes a down payment on Obama'scampaign promise of creating jobs that can reduce the nation'sdependence on foreign oil.
The centerpiece tax cut calls for a $500 break for singleworkers and $1,000 for couples, including those who don't earnenough to owe federal income taxes.
The House vote marked merely the first of several majormilestones for the legislation, which Democratic leaders havepledged to deliver to the White House for Obama's signature bymid-February.
Already a more bipartisan - and costlier - measure is takingshape in the Senate, and Obama personally pledged to House andSenate Republicans in closed-door meetings on Tuesday that he isready to accept modifications as the legislation advances.
Rahm Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman who is Obama's chiefof staff, invited nearly a dozen House Republicans to the WhiteHouse late Tuesday for what one participant said was a soft salesjob.
This lawmaker quoted Emanuel as telling the group that pollingshows roughly 80 percent support for the legislation, and thatRepublicans oppose it at their political peril. The lawmaker spokeon condition of anonymity, saying there was no agreement to speakpublicly about the session.
In fact, though, many Republicans in the House are virtuallyimmune from Democratic challenges because of the makeup of theirdistricts, and have more to fear from GOP primary challenges in2010. As a result, they have relatively little political incentiveto break with conservative orthodoxy and support hundreds ofbillions in new federal spending.
Also, some Republican lawmakers have said in recent days theyknow they will have a second chance to support a bill when thefinal House-Senate compromise emerges in a few weeks.
That gave an air of predictability to the proceedings in theHouse, as Democrats defended the legislation as an appropriateresponse to the specter of double-digit unemployment in the nearfuture.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, sought to strip out all thespending from the legislation before final passage, arguing thatthe entire cost of the bill would merely add to soaring federaldeficits. "Where are we going to get the money," he asked, buthis attempt failed overwhelmingly, 302-134.
Obey had a ready retort. "They don't look like Herbert Hoover,I guess, but there are an awful lot of people in this chamber whothink like Herbert Hoover," he said, referring to the presidentwhose term is forever linked in history with the Great Depression.