- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009

The House on Wednesday voted to limit how the remaining $350 billion in the financial bailout fund can be spent, while appropriators took their first crack at a proposed $825 billion economic recovery package.

The bailout fund measure, which passed by a vote of 260-166, requires that $40 billion to $100 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) be used to reduce the number of mortgage foreclosures. It also places executive pay restrictions on financial institutions that receive program money.

The Obama administration has said it would abide by many of the provisions even without the legislation. The Senate last week agreed to release the second half of the $700 billion TARP to the White House.

The legislation on the restrictions now requires action by the Senate, where it is expected to languish.

On the separate $825 billion economic stimulus package, Republicans said they are skeptical the Democrat-crafted measure would do enough to jump-start the economy, pointing to an analysis of the spending plan by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicting that more than 90 percent of the money would be spent after fiscal 2009, which ends Sept. 30.

“The centerpiece of any stimulus bill ought to be near-term job creation,” said Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, during the panel’s markup of the bill Wednesday. “Government has a role (in creating jobs) - but our constituents are not asking for an unlimited expansion of government.”

But committee Chairman David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, defended his party’s push to pass and send the bill to Mr. Obama’s desk for his signature by the mid-February congressional break, saying that thousands of American jobs are lost daily without the package.

“And we’d like to avoid that,” Mr. Obey said.

The committee was expected to approve the measure Wednesday evening, setting up an expected full House vote in the coming days.

House Republican leaders also Wednesday requested a meeting with Mr. Obama on Thursday to discuss their proposals for stimulating the economy.

“During our meeting on Jan. 5, 2009, you reached out to congressional Republicans to help you craft an economy recovery plan that will help our fellow Americans, boost our economy and create jobs,” said Republican Reps. John A. Boehner of Ohio, Eric Cantor of Virginia, Mike Pence of Indiana, Kevin McCarthy of California and Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan. “We are ready to present our principles to you to continue the dialogue we started at the beginning of this year.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed meeting.

After Mr. Obama’s bipartisan meeting on Capitol Hill earlier this month, House Republicans created a special working group on the economy, and last week held a hearing on stimulus ideas with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former eBay Inc. Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman. The group has stressed tax relief and incentives for small businesses in particular as a means of creating jobs.

Despite Mr. Obama’s promises of inclusion, Democrats last week introduced the stimulus plan with no input from Republicans, who accused them of trying to steamroll it through the legislative process.

Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he asked Chairman Charles B. Rangel of New York to postpone Thursday’s committee markup of the bill, but to no avail.

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