WASHINGTON - In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday night with spending increases and tax cuts at the heart of the young administration's plan to revive a badly ailing economy.
The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama's pleas for bipartisan support.
'We don't have a moment to spare,' Obama declared at the White House 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 Tuesday's 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 unlikely to help laid-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 and projects through slow-moving government spending.' A GOP alternative, comprised almost entirely of tax cuts, was defeated, 266-170, moments before the final vote.
On the final vote, the legislation drew overwhelming support among Democrats while all but a few Republicans opposed it.
Duluth Congressman John Linder said the plan does to much to increase the size of the federal government.
"Small businesses create jobs, not the federal government," he said in a statement. "I support a plan that would provide middle-class Americans with reduced tax rates and relief from the (alternative minimum tax), small business tax breaks that enable them to hire more employees, and corporate tax policies that allow them to plan for the future and invest in capital.
"Instead of empowering people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps by giving unemployed workers the tools to weather the storm such as education and job training, the Democrat bill extends Uncle Sam's hand to give a long, exhausting, list of hand-outs without a single hand-up. Bailouts and handouts are not what made our nation great."
The White House-backed legislation includes an estimated $544 billion in federal spending and $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses.
- The Gwinnett Daily Post
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