In a major victory for President Barack Obama, the House of Representatives has approved, by a vote of 246 to 183, a $787 billion measure that tries to create jobs, spur growth, and kick the U.S. economy out of recession through tax cuts and domestic spending.
In the House final vote, Republicans again withheld their support from the measure, as they had done when the House voted on its initial economic measure last month. All but seven Democrats voted for the legislation
At a cost newly calculated by the Congressional Budget Office at $787 billion, it directs spending at numerous domestic sectors of the economy, aiming to spur growth through a range of tax credits for businesses and aid to states.
Most Republicans fiercely opposed the bill as a wasteful, inefficient expansion of government programs that will worsen the deficit and fail to deliver enough stimulus.
"This opportunity lost is more than sad, because the American people believed that this was sacrifice for modernization, for higher productivity, for creation of jobs, and that is not what it is," said Republican Lincoln Diaz Balart.
Democrats said the financial crisis grew from failed economic policies under the Bush administration, during which the federal deficit climbed to record levels.
California Democrat George Miller acknowledged that the measure alone will not fix the economy but does take a major step, and he responded this way to Republican criticisms.
"When this country cries out to help this economy, to help America's families, who are unemployed who are losing income who are losing jobs, President Obama stepped forward with the American Recovery Act. Republicans stepped forth with saying 'no,'" he said.
The bill includes slightly lower tax reductions than sought by President Obama, credits for businesses, billions in aid to U.S. states to help support the low-income government Medicaid program, and money for unemployment insurance.
Spending projects amount to more than $300 billion, ranging from education to health care, transportation and highway infrastructure, and support for businesses developing alternative energy.
Republicans accused Democrats of providing insufficient time for lawmakers to examine the 1,000-page bill, insisting a Republican alternative would create twice as many jobs.
An angry House Republican leader John Boehner made a final appeal against the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged approval.
BOEHNER: "I come here to fight for a smaller, less costly federal government. This is the epitome, the epitome, of what I came here to stop."
PELOSI: "Congress is boldly and swiftly delivering on the president's promise of new jobs, new hope, and a new direction for the American people."
Republicans claim the true cost of the legislation to the government exceeds $1 trillion, saying it contains numerous spending provisions that do not belong in a stimulus bill.
House Appropriations Chairman David Obey drew another contrast with past Bush administration policies, calling the measure the biggest change in domestic policy since the 1930s.
"Today we have a president who is willing to invest $800 billion to attack this recession and to turn this economy into a stronger and better economy, for every American, not just the top 10 percent who have benefited from Republican policies," he said.
Among its provisions, the legislation would automatically raise the ceiling on the national debt to more than $12 trillion.
A final vote in the Senate is expected to mirror earlier votes, as Democrats achieved the 60 vote majority threshold required with the help of only three moderate Senate Republicans.
Final approval of the hard-fought legislation after Senate action would send it to President Obama for his signature, giving him an important victory as he confronts the crisis in the U.S. economy and takes steps to stabilize the financial system.