US Congress passes $787 billion stimulus package

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Monday, February 16, 2009

The seal of the United States Senate

The United States Congress passed a US$787 billion stimulus package late Friday night, in an effort to curb the recession and boost the faltering US economy.

The bill was passed by a vote of 60&ndashp;38, barely reaching the minimum number of 60 votes needed to make the bill a law. Only three Republican senators voted for the measure. Shortly before the Senate vote, the US House of Representatives approved of the stimulus by a margin of 246–183, with all 176 Republicans and seven Democrats voting against the bill.

The Senate vote was delayed until night so that Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown could fly back from Ohio, where his mother had recently died. He cast the final and decisive sixtieth vote in favor of the stimulus bill.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, February 17.

"This is a major milestone on our road to recovery, and I want to thank the members of Congress who came together in common purpose to make it happen," Obama said in his weekly address. "I will sign this legislation into law shortly, and we'll begin making the immediate investments necessary to put people back to work doing the work America needs done. This historic step won't be the end of what we do to turn our economy around, but the beginning."

Cquote1.svg This is a major milestone on our road to recovery Cquote2.svg

—Barack Obama

64% of the stimulus package is intended for spending and money for social programmes, while another 34% is devoted to tax cuts. The plan also limits cash bonuses and incentive compensations for Wall Street executives. Over $48 billion of the stimulus has been reserved for transportation projects, such as high-speed rail, road, and bridge construction. Tens of billions more will be used for funding states to prevent any cuts that they would otherwise be forced to make to aid local governments and schools.

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Democrats say that the plan will help create three and a half million jobs, and that the plan's tax cuts will help 95% of all US residents, mainly with the use of $800 breaks for couples and $400 for individuals. Those who do not earn enough money to pay income taxes will also be eligible for the breaks. Additionally, breaks will be given to first-time homebuyers and car buyers, in an effort to give a boost to two industries badly affected by the recession.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said that the stimulus package was the most important legislation that he had ever worked on. "The country is in trouble and we're so fortunate we were able to get it passed. It's going to give this country a shot in the arm."

Cquote1.svg The bill that was about jobs, jobs, jobs has turned into a bill that's about spending, spending, spending Cquote2.svg

—John Boehner, House Republican leader

Others, however, such as Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, are highly critical of the plan. "This isn't Monopoly money. It's real. It adds up, and it has to be paid back, by our children and by their children," he said, adding that it "is unlikely to have much stimulative effect."

"The bill that was about jobs, jobs, jobs has turned into a bill that's about spending, spending, spending," said House Republican leader John Boehner from Ohio, throwing a copy of the bill on the floor in protest.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a stimulus package worth $825 billion with no support from Republicans. Shortly thereafter, the Senate passed a slightly different version of the bill worth $838 billion. The differences between the two bills had to be bridged in a Senate-House committee before it was voted upon in both houses.

 
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See Obama signs $787 billion stimulus package, February 17, 2009
 


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