In an important victory for President Barack Obama, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a $819 billion stimulus measure to help spur a recovery of the U.S. economy. No opposition Republicans supported the bill, saying it contains wasteful spending and that it will not stimulate the economy, while Democrats were mostly united in support of the measure.
After two days of debate on the main legislation and 11 amendments, the House voted 244 to 188 to approve the measure.
This week's visit to the Capitol by President Obama to try to ease Republican concerns did not persuade minority House members to vote for the measure.
In the final tally, no Republicans crossed party lines to support the legislation. A dozen Democrats parted with their leadership to oppose the measure.
Before passage, the Democratic-controlled House rejected a Republican amendment seeking to eliminate all spending provisions in the bill.
The House also rejected an alternative plan that minority Republicans asserted would generate two million more jobs than the Democratic measure as well as a final effort by Republicans to kill the legislation.
As he began the debate, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Democrat David Obey urged lawmakers to support the president's wishes on the stimulus. "Unless somebody has a clearly better idea, I think we have an obligation to support the president's proposal at this point, as the only game in town," he said.
Republicans say Democratic spending proposals fail to target the most important sectors of the economy with enough money, or inject money rapidly enough to help avert further economic decline.
Democrat George Miller accused Republicans of trying to extend what he called "failed economic policies" of the Bush administration. "Our friends on the other side of the aisle ask us just for one last time to do what they have been doing the last eight years, to just one more time give the tax cuts to the richest people in the country, to just one more time dive into the tank on fiscal irresponsibility," he said.
At $819 billion, the House measure is slightly less than its original $825 billion level. It includes hundreds of billions of dollars in spending on numerous domestic programs, expanded unemployment benefits for Americans, and about $275 billion in tax cuts.
In other floor debate, Republican Wally Herger pointed to Congressional Budget Office figures indicating that the Democratic measure would have less short-term impact on the economy than originally expected, while Democrat Carol Shea Porter urged a 'Yes' vote.
HERGER: "I can't support a $825 billion bill that won't fully take effect until 18 months or two years down the road or even longer."
PORTER: "So many American families are hurting. We must not only acknowledge their pain; we must help them recover. This package will help them recover, this package will help America recover."
In a statement welcoming House passage of the bill, President Obama said he hopes to continue to work with lawmakers to strengthen the economic plan before it reaches his desk.
Majority Democrats want to get a bill to the president by the middle of next month when Congress has its next scheduled major break.