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House Economic Vote May Signal Ongoing US Partisan Battles


Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives say the 246 to 183 vote approving a huge economic stimulus measure is only the first of many steps to turn back the U.S recession and revitalize the economy. But a second display of unanimous opposition to the legislation by House Republicans raises questions about how much bipartisanship there can be in the coming months.

During his presidential campaign, first weeks in the White House, and his attempts to win Republican backing for the economic bill, President Obama said he was seeking a shift in the political tone in Washington.

As the economic stimulus bill, crafted largely by House Democrats, took shape the president visited Capitol Hill, invited Republicans to the White House, and said he was open to Republican ideas.

But twice in less than three weeks, not a single House Republican voted to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"Today's vote was about Republicans saying yes to solutions that will now, and have always been, the key to unlocking our economic growth," said Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence.

Democratic leaders paid tribute to President Obama for his efforts to bring Republicans on board in support of the legislation.

They also drew attention to Republican opposition, portraying it as something rooted in past Bush administration policies Americans would prefer to leave behind.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who Republicans accused of excluding them from getting their ideas into the measure, makes clear Democrats intend to use their strong House majority to move their and President Obama's agenda.

"We're talking about policy to take our country in a new direction. We would like to work with them, and incorporate their ideas when they are in furtherance of a new direction but we will not turn back," she said.

Asked if the House vote foreshadows intensified partisan battles ahead on other major legislation, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer suggests Republicans pay attention to opinion polls showing strong public support for the new direction Democrats propose."I think as the Republicans hear from the American public, I am hopeful they will join us, because there is much yet to be done," he said.

While Democrats portray Republicans as being stuck in the past, especially with regard to their philosophy that tax cuts primarily drive job creation and growth, Republicans say Democrats are wrong to think that massive spending will save the economy.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor says two unanimous votes by Republicans against Obama-supported legislation reflect a philosophy their constituents support.

"That tax relief designed to revitalize struggling small businesses, and help middle class families is the most immediate way to rekindle America's economy and to create jobs," he said.

Cathy Rodgers, a two-term Republican from Washington state, says Democrats ignored President Obama's desire for a truly bipartisan bill."The transparency, the openness wasn't seen in this legislation and the result is a big government, big spending, piece of legislation that is going to do very little to help our small business, help struggling middle class families, and create jobs," she said.

Asked about potential political risks to Republicans from their votes against the economic bill, especially if it proves successful in helping the U.S. economy, House Republican Leader John Boehner said,"I think standing on principle, and doing the right things for the right reasons on behalf your constituents will never get you in trouble."

It remains to be seen of course how all of this plays out in coming months as the Democratic-controlled Congress tackles other legislation to ease the U.S. financial crisis, as well as some of the most difficult and politically-sensitive issues such as health care, and government entitlement programs threatening to capsize the U.S. economy.

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