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Friday, February 13, 2009

House passes massive economic stimulus package - MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Democrats in the House of Representatives pushed through a sprawling, $787 billion stimulus package backed by President Barack Obama on Friday, handing the new president a key victory on his top economic priority that he says will create 3.5 million jobs and help lift the economy from recession.
The huge package contains billions of dollars in infrastructure spending and assistance to states and the unemployed, and a $400 tax cut for individuals that Obama promoted during his run for the White House.
The version approved by the House on Friday is a compromise hammered out with Senate negotiators after each chamber approved a prior version. A Senate vote may come later Friday.
The bill "will change this country for the better," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., who heads the House Appropriations Committee.
No Republican support
The House vote was 246 to 183. No Republicans voted for the measure. Many fiercely criticized it, saying it's full of wasteful spending and too few tax breaks.
"This plan was supposed to be about jobs, jobs, jobs, but all it does is spend, spend, spend," said House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
U.S. stocks traded mixed on Friday after the House voted. See Market Snapshot.
Obama has campaigned feverishly for the stimulus, pouring enormous amounts of political capital into its passage and touting it as a necessary step to head off economic catastrophe. Some of the effects of the bill will be felt immediately, but many will be slow to kick in.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, for example, the stimulus would boost employment by between 800,000 and 2.3 million by the end of this year. By the end of 2010, the bill would create 3.6 million jobs, CBO estimated. See Capitol Report.
Details of the package
Tax cuts make up about one-third of the stimulus package. They include the $400 payroll-tax cut for workers, $100 less than Obama had proposed during his presidential campaign. Also included is relief from the alternative minimum tax for millions of middle-income taxpayers.
The bill spends $5.1 billion to allow businesses to more quickly deduct the cost of some investments from taxable income.
It also spends $6.6 billion on a tax-credit for first-time homebuyers.
Spending by the government makes up the rest of the stimulus bill. Read the bill.
Lawmakers agreed to spend $30 billion to modernize the electric grid, spur advanced battery manufacturing and fund energy efficiency projects. There is $29 billion included for road and bridge infrastructure construction and $19 billion for hospitals and doctors who computerize their medical records.
Obama made his latest appeal for passage of the measure on Friday, speaking before a business group at the White House. But he also cautioned that the bill is part of a multi-pronged strategy to revive the economy.
"This work will not be easy," Obama said. "Our recovery will likely be measured in years, not months. And all of us -- government, business, labor, and citizens -- will have responsibilities to meet."
Obama said his administration will also work to revitalize the housing market and the financial sector.
Passage of the legislation would mark an important victory for Obama, who has been in office for less than a month.
But almost all congressional Republicans have panned the bill.
"Democratic leaders barreled ahead with their trillion-dollar spending plan that everyone agrees won't work. The American people deserve better," said a press release from Boehner's office on Friday. End of Story

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