House OKs stimulus bill with no help from GOP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bipartisan it wasn’t.
In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday night, filled with new spending and tax cuts at the core of the young administration’s revival plan for the desperately ailing economy.
The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama’s frequent pleas for bipartisan support.
“This recovery plan will save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years,” the president said in a written statement released moments after the House voted. Still later, he welcomed congressional leaders of both parties to the White House for drinks as he continued to lobby for the legislation.
Earlier, Obama declared, “We don’t have a moment to spare” as congressional allies hastened to do his bidding in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The vote sent the bill to the Senate, where debate could begin as early as Monday on a companion measure already taking shape. Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislation ready for Obama’s signature by mid-February.
A mere eight days after Inauguration Day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the events heralded a new era. “The ship of state is difficult to turn,” said the California Democrat. “But that is what we must do. That is what President Obama called us to do in his inaugural address.”
With unemployment at its highest level in a quarter-century, the banking industry wobbling despite the infusion of staggering sums of 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 people unemployed. I don’t think we want that on our consciences,” said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and one of the leading architects of the legislation.
Republicans said the bill was short on tax cuts and contained too much spending, much of it wasteful, and would fall far short of the administration’s predictions of job creation.
The party’s leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, said the measure “won’t create many jobs, but it will create plenty of programs and projects through slow-moving government spending.” A GOP alternative, consisting almost entirely of tax cuts, was defeated, 266-170.
On the final vote, the legislation drew the support of all but 11 Democrats, while all Republicans opposed it.
The White House-backed legislation includes an estimated $544 billion in federal spending and $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses. The totals remained in flux nearly until the final vote, due to official re-estimates and a last-minute addition of $3 billion for mass transit.
Included is money for traditional job-creating programs such as highway construction and mass transit projects. But the measure tickets far more for unemployment benefits, health care and food stamp increases designed to aid victims of the worst economic downturn 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.