The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama’s frequent pleas for bipartisan support.
In a swift victory for US President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge 819 (b) billion US dollar stimulus bill on Wednesday night with spending increases and tax cuts at the heart of the young administration’s plan to revive a badly ailing economy.
The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama’s frequent pleas for bipartisan support. “This recovery plan will save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years,” the president said in a written statement released moments after the House voted.
Still later, he welcomed congressional leaders of both parties to the White House for drinks as he continued to lobby for the legislation.
Earlier, Obama declared, that businesses “can’t afford inaction or delay,” as congressional allies hastened to do his bidding in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The vote sent the bill to the Senate, where debate could begin as early as Monday on a companion measure already taking shape.
Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislation ready for Obama’s signature by mid-February.
With unemployment at its highest level in a quarter-century, the banking industry wobbling despite the infusion of staggering sums of bailout money and states struggling with budget crises, Democrats said the legislation was desperately needed.
“The fact is this economy is in mortal danger of absolute collapse,” Representative David Obey said, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and one of the leading architects of the legislation.
Republicans said the bill was short on tax cuts and contained too much spending, much of it wasteful, and would fall far short of administration’s predictions of job creation.
The party’s leader, Representative John Boehner of Ohio, said the measure had a lot of spending “that won’t create jobs and won’t help preserve jobs in America.”
A Republican alternative, comprised almost entirely of tax cuts, was defeated, 266-170. On the final vote, the legislation drew the support of all but 11 Democrats, while all Republicans opposed it.
Tax-cuts and job-creating programmes
The White House-backed legislation includes an estimated 544 (b) billion US dollars in federal spending and 275 (b) billion US dollars in tax cuts for individuals and businesses.
Included is money for traditional job-creating programmes such as highway construction and mass transit projects.
But the measure tickets far more for unemployment benefits, health care and food stamp increases designed to aid victims of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Tens of (b) billions of additional dollars would go to the states, which confront the prospect of deep budget cuts of their own. That money marks an attempt to ease the recession’s impact on schools and law enforcement.
With funding for housing and other provisions, the bill also makes a down payment on Obama’s campaign promise of creating jobs that can reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The centrepiece tax cut calls for a 500 US dollar break for single workers and 1-thousand US dollars for couples, including those who don’t earn enough to owe federal income taxes.-AP