The House has approved an $819 billion economic stimulus package despite unanimous Republican opposition.
The vote of 244-188 included support from all but 11 Democrats. A Republican stimulus bill made up of mainly of tax cuts was defeated by a vote of 266-170.
The Senate will take up its version of the stimulus package next week. President Obama wants to have the bill signed by mid-February. “This recovery plan will save or create more than 3 million new jobs over the next few years,” he said.
“I look forward to swift Senate passage and for President Obama to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law before the President’s Day recess,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
House minority leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the bill “won’t create many jobs but it will create plenty of programs and projects through wasteful government spending.”
The bill contains $544 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax cuts. The centerpiece of the tax cut plans is the Making Work Pay refundable tax credit of up to $500 for individuals or $1,000 for married couples in 2009 and 2010.
Obama hopes to attract more Republican support in the Senate, where the cost of the bill could grow to nearly $1 trillion. “I hope that we can continue to strengthen this bill before it gets to my desk,” he said. “But what we can’t do is drag our feet or allow the same partisan differences to get in the way.”
He has been meeting with Republican leaders in both the House and Senate and persuaded Democratic lawmakers to drop some controversial provisions, such as spending on contraceptives and to renovate the National Mall in Washington.
However, Republicans in the House complained about being shut out of the process by House Democratic leaders. The Senate has added a provision by Finance Committee ranking member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to patch the alternative minimum tax for another year. Another addition reduces taxes on businesses buying back their own debt at a discount. The Senate is also likely to add a proposal to reduce taxes from 35 to 5.25 percent on profits that U.S. companies earn in other countries and bring back to the U.S.