- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

UPDATED:

WASHINGTON — The House passed a $787 billion economic recovery package of spending and tax cuts Friday afternoon along party lines, sending the bill to the Senate, which is expected to approve the measure this evening before it’s forwarded to President Obama for his signature.

No Republicans voted for the measure, which passed the chamber 246-183. Seven Democrats voted against the bill, and one Democrat voted “present.”

It was the second time in the past month a version of the proposal received no Republican support in the House.

The votes will come after intra-party squabbles among Democratic leaders over spending cuts in the final draft, which represents a lower overall figure than earlier versions approved by the Senate and House. House and Senate Republicans say the bill is too expensive, includes billions of dollars in unnecessary spending project and contains too few tax cuts.

Republicans also complain they had almost no time to read the 1,071-page bill that was completed only late Thursday evening. The House had to override a previous instruction when it first passed the bill that pledged to give members at least 48 hours to study the text before a vote was scheduled.

“It is not petty to say each member should at least have the opportunity to read this legislation,” said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican.

Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price called the tight voting deadline “a joke.”

“You can’t be serious. We got this at 11 p.m. last night,” he said.

But Democrats say the spending and tax cut package will stem the economic downturn by creating or saving 3.5 million jobs, reinforcing the safety net for those in caught in hard times and investing in clean energy technology.

“Every American prays that this bill will work, and I think all of us will pray that this bill will work,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, on the chamber floor Friday afternoon. “I hope that we come together — not because this bill is perfect but because it is a substantial investment of America’s money in resuscitating its economy that is causing such great pain.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, opening just 90 minutes of floor debate on the bill late Friday morning, countered, “The time for talk is over. I think we ought to get on with it.”

Just three Republican senators and no House Republicans voted for the original versions of the stimulus bill. Both parties were watching closely to see if any members would defect on the final bill.

President Obama’s only reaction to the stimulus came as he walked out of the White House with his family late Friday afternoon as they boarded the Marine One helicopter, en route for the weekend to their hometown of Chicago.

Mr. Obama, his arm around older daughter Malia’s shoulder, was asked about the vote and said, “Thumbs up,” as he flashed a thumb skyward.

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