/ 29 January 2009

US economic stimulus package makes progress

United States President Barack Obama scored his first major legislative victory on Wednesday with passage of an $825-billion economic stimulus package by a sharply divided US House of Representatives on a 244-188 vote.

Obama, who took office eight days ago, was denied, at least for now, his goal of bipartisanship. Every Republican who voted opposed the landmark Bill, complaining it contained too much new spending and not enough tax cuts.

All but 11 of Obama’s fellow Democrats in the House supported the Bill to combat the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The Senate begins debate next week.

Obama, seeking to build support, said, ”I hope that we can continue to strengthen this plan before it gets to my desk” to be signed into law.

”But what we can’t do is drag our feet or allow the same partisan differences to get in our way,” Obama added in a statement issued by the White House. ”We must move swiftly and boldly to put Americans back to work, and that is exactly what this plan begins to do.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Obama sought bold and swift action and ”that is exactly what action we are taking today [Wednesday]”.

On his first visit to the Capitol as president on Tuesday, Obama failed to ease Republican concerns that the package included too little in tax cuts, $275-billion, and too much in spending, $550-billion.

They at least agreed to keep talking to each other.

The Democratic-led Senate is expected to approve a similar version of the Bill, one costing $887-billion. It includes a one-year fix to insulate middle-class taxpayers from the Alternative Minimum Tax, which originally was aimed at the wealthy but is affecting a growing number of middle-class taxpayers because of inflation.

Once the Senate passes its Bill, House and Senate negotiators must resolve differences and approve a final measure that can be sent to Obama. — Reuters