House OKs stimulus package


Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 8:47 p.m.

WASHINGTON - The House, seizing a rare moment of bipartisanship to respond to the economy's slump, overwhelmingly passed a $146 billion aid package Tuesday that would speed rebates of $600-$1,200 to most taxpayers.

The plan, approved 385-35 after little debate, would send at least some rebate to anyone with at least $3,000 in income, with more going to families with children and less going to wealthier taxpayers.

It faced a murky future in the Senate, though, where Democrats and some Republicans backed a larger package that adds billions of dollars for senior citizens and the unemployed, and shrinks the rebate to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples. That plan, written by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, would deliver checks even to the richest taxpayers, who are disqualified under the House-passed measure.

Both versions would provide tax breaks to businesses to spur equipment and other purchases.

President Bush and House leaders urged the Senate to take the bipartisan agreement and pass it quickly, even as Baucus, D-Mont., planned a vote today in his committee on a larger package that could face a slower path.

"We need to get this bill out of the Senate and on my desk,'' Bush said in the Oval Office.

Congressional leaders are aiming to send the measure to Bush by Feb. 15. But the divergent plans - and bids by Senate Democrats and Republicans to swell the package with more add-ons - could drag out that schedule.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she hoped the Senate would "take this bill and run with it.''

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that was unlikely in the freewheeling Senate, where members have elaborate wish lists for adding to the bill, including food stamps, Medicaid and heating assistance for low-income people and spending on infrastructure projects, among other things. "I think that there's 51 Democratic senators without exception who believe this package can be made better,'' Reid said, adding that he also expected to have enough GOP support to change it.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, said reopening the deal would be inappropriate.

"This is not a time to get into some kind of testing of wills between the two congressional bodies. This is a time to show we can rise above partisanship, do something important, and do it quickly,'' McConnell said.

The House plan brought together Democrats and Republicans, both of whom surrendered cherished proposals to reach a deal.

Pelosi cautioned against adding items that could hinder an economic recovery or scuttle the bipartisan deal. "It's important that this bill not get overloaded. I have a full agenda of things I would like to have in the package, but we have to contain the price,'' Pelosi said. "We made a decision, because that's where we could find our common ground.''

Republican leaders, too, described the measure as an imperfect compromise that would provide a needed jolt to the economy. Americans "expect us to find ways to work together, not reasons to fight with each other,'' said Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who forged the deal with Pelosi in consultation with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson.

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