- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Senate today overwhelmingly approved an economic-stimulus plan that would send $300 to $600 tax rebate checks to most Americans, including low-income retirees, disabled veterans and veterans’ widows.

The House is expected to pass the bill as soon as this evening, sending the bill to President Bush a week before Congress’ self-imposed deadline to speed aid to the ailing economy.

Under the plan, which Mr. Bush is expected to sign, most taxpayers will get $600 rebate checks and married couples will get $1,200. The poorest workers, retirees and disable veterans living on Social Security would receive as much as $300.

The Internal Revenue Service will start mailing the check by May or June, administration officials said.

The payments phase out for taxpayers earning more than $75,000 a year and couples making $150,000.

The bill, which passed the Senate 81-16, also provides families with children a $300 income-tax credit per child and tax breaks for business that invest in new plants and equipment.

Senate leaders touted the bill as a bipartisan breakthrough, though Senate Democrats bowed to Republican demands to stick to the basics of the compromise plan to which the House and Mr. Bush agreed last month.

The only change to the House-passed bill was the addition of $9 billion to cut rebate checks for the 20 million retirees and more than 250,000 veterans left out of the House package. The extra rebate checks upped the plan’s two-year price tag to $170 billion.

“There is so much bipartisanship that goes on a lot of it you don’t see,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, told reporters shortly before the vote. “This was bipartisanship in action.”

Later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the senators would be going home today feeling good about what they did for the country.

“Neither the Republicans or the Democrats are the winners. The winners are the American people,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We got together, we did it quickly, which is fairly unusual around here.”

He said the speed with which the Senate ultimately acted was “doubly noteworthy because it was done in an election year.”

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a Democrat-sponsored bill for a $40 billion expansion of the plan, including more tax-rebate checks, more business tax breaks, extended unemployment benefits and home-heating aid for the poor.

Republicans objected to the slew of add-ons, which they said decorated the bill like a “Christmas tree,” including $100 million to pay a lawsuit settlement to coal companies and tax credits for renewable energy initiatives.

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