- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

Congress yesterday gave final approval to an economic-stimulus plan that sends tax-rebate checks of up to $600 to most middle-class Americans and up to $300 payouts to the working poor, low-income retirees and disabled veterans.

  • House Democrats refuse to ban pork
  • Under the $170 billion plan, taxpayers would get rebate checks, depending on their income, of up to $600 per person and $1,200 for a married couple. Families with children also are in store for an additional $300 income-tax credit per child. The Internal Revenue Service will start mailing the rebate checks by early May, said Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.

    Rebates will start to decline for taxpayers earning more than $75,000 a year and couples making more than $150,000. Businesses get tax breaks for investments in plants or equipment, an incentive to retain and create jobs.

    President Bush last night praised the “robust, broad-based, timely” package as “an example of bipartisan cooperation at a time when the American people most expect it.” White House officials told reporters he would sign it next week.

    After the final vote in the House, Democratic and Republican leaders from both chambers held a joint press conference, a rare sight in this Congress, which is often bitterly split along party lines.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the stimulus package sent a message to the middle class and those aspiring to the middle class.

    “It says to them the work of Congress understands the struggles they have working paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

    House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said both parties and both chambers “gave a little” to forge the plan.

    “I think that is what the American people expect,” the Ohio Republican said. “It’s a model of how we can work together when it is in the interest of the American people.”

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the final bill is “an example of how government is supposed to work.” But he called it a “hard compromise” that was struck in the Senate.

    Although the leaders touted the bipartisan cooperation on the bill, it didn’t pass until Senate Democrats bowed to Republican demands to stick to the basics of the House compromise and abandon an attempt to add to it.

    The plan nearly stalled in the Senate until the chamber’s Democrats dropped proposals that would have added $40 billion in other measures. It then passed both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support, sending the bill to Mr. Bush a week before Congress’ self-imposed deadline to speed relief to an ailing economy.

    The bill passed by an 81-16 vote in the Senate and a 380-34 vote in the House.

    The Senate-amended compromise plan, to which the House and Mr. Bush agreed last month, provides about $9 billion to include rebate checks for 20 million retirees living on Social Security, more than 250,000 disabled veterans and veterans’ widows.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the senators will go home knowing they helped the country.

    “Neither the Republicans or the Democrats are the winners. The winners are the American people,” Mr. McConnell said.

    A few Republicans opposed the plan, saying a one-time injection of cash will not stop an economic slowdown and will hurt the long-term economic outlook by expanding the federal deficit by $170 billion.

    “The biggest problem with this stimulus package is the lure of free money,” said Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, one of 16 Senate Republicans to vote against the bill. “This bill should be called the deficit spending bill, not a stimulus package.”

    Senate Republicans blocked a Democrat-sponsored bill Wednesday that would have added $40 billion to the plan for more tax-rebate checks, more business tax breaks, extended unemployment benefits and home-heating aid for the poor.

    Republicans said the Democrats were trying to decorate the bill like a “Christmas tree,” with such added ornaments as $100 million to pay a lawsuit settlement to coal companies and tax credits for renewable-energy initiatives.

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