Senate voting on stimulus bill

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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.

He ignored a shouted question about the lack of Republican support.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was informed of the House passage, and the fact that not one Republican voted for the bill, as he was walking off the dais in the Brady press briefing room.

Responding to the lack of Republican support, Mr. Gibbs put up his hand as if to say, “What can you do?” and said: “3.5 million jobs that we look forward to saving or creating.”

“Have a good weekend,” he said, walking out of the room.

Earlier in the televised briefing, Mr. Gibbs had said it was “silly” to talk of bipartisanship being dead.

“When the dust finally settles you’ll see an economic recovery plan that moves forward because Democrats and Republicans worked together to get it to the president’s desk,” he said.

The Senate vote will require a 60-vote supermajority to overcome Republican objections to the bill’s impact on the budget. With ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, not expected to vote on the bill, Senate Democrats will need all three Republicans and every member of the Democratic caucus to pass the bill.

House and Senate Democrats argued Wednesday during negotiations to reconcile the Senate’s $838 billion bill and the $819 billion House-passed version. A tentative deal announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, was called into doubt when House Democratic leaders did not show up for the conference committee meeting.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, particularly miffed that Mr. Reid cut $16 billion in federal funding for schools, initially withheld public approval of the deal.

But Democrats since have presented a united front, warning that failure to enact the measure would have dire consequence to a domestic economy already in trouble.

“I think this is a key part of what’s gong to be a multipart strategy to contain this decline,” said Larry Summers, who heads the White House-based economics council, on NBC’s “Today” show Friday.

He added that while the package shouldn’t be considered a “silver bullet” to cure the country’s economic woes, “We don’t have a viable alternative.”

Jon Ward contributed to this article.

About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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