The United States Senate has voted 61-36 to end debate on an $827 billion economic recovery package, clearing the way for its expected passage by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, says the package of spending and tax cuts is what President Barack Obama has been seeking to respond to the staggering U.S. economy. "This legislation is in keeping with what President Obama wants, that is, to have a program out there that creates lots of jobs and gives middle class Americans tax relief. That is what this legislation is all about," he said.
Three Republicans joined Democrats in voting to end debate on the bill. Their support was essential to getting the 60-vote majority necessary to move the legislation forward in the chamber, where Democrats control 58 of the 100 seats.
To gain that Republican support, Democrats agreed to cut back spending in the bill under a deal reached late last week.
But many other Republicans argue that the measure is still too bloated with spending and lacks sufficient tax cuts. They say many of the spending items are a waste of taxpayer money because they are for special interest projects that would do little to create jobs.
That was the message underscored by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, who lost his presidential bid to Mr. Obama last November. "It is increasing spending, increasing the role of government in a draconian and unprecedented fashion, and laying a debt on future generations of Americans of many trillions of dollars," he said.
But Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who played a key role in forging the Senate deal, argued otherwise. "There are some who believe that no action is better than the action that has been proposed. I could not disagree more. The future of our economy depends on immediate action that is targeted and effective."
If the Senate passes the legislation on Tuesday, it will have to be reconciled with the House of Representatives' version, which passed last month without any Republican support. The Senate measure is several billion dollars more than the House bill, and offers more tax cuts and less spending.
President Obama has called on Congress to send him a bill for his signature by next Monday.