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US Congress Approves Economic Recovery Plan


The U.S. Senate Friday night followed the lead of the House of Representatives and, on a 60-38 vote, gave final approval to a massive $787 billion economic recovery plan in a key victory for President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign the bill into law soon. But the measure received little Republican support, despite Mr. Obama's appeals to the minority party.

President Barack Obama had called on Congress to approve an economic recovery plan before February 16, the President's Day federal holiday, and lawmakers delivered.

The measure, more than 1,000 pages long, is a package of spending and tax cuts aimed at creating jobs and growing the economy. It is a compromise between House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Senator Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, played a key role in crafting the bill with Republican Susan Collins of Maine.

"Now is the time to provide the tools the American people will use with creativity and drive to rebuild the economy and return us to prosperity," he said.

Spending in the final bill was cut back from earlier versions to win the support of three Republicans in the Senate, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine. Their support was crucial to get a 60 vote minimum in the 100-seat chamber to overcome efforts by other Republicans to stall the bill.

In the House, not one Republican voted in favor of the measure, despite efforts by President Obama to reach out to members of the other party.

Republicans argued the plan is short on tax cuts and contains wasteful spending that will not create jobs or grow the economy. They say the true cost of the bill, with interest, is more than one trillion dollars. They warn it will vastly increase the nation's debt, which will take decades to pay down.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, who lost his bid for the presidency to Mr. Obama last November, spoke for most Republicans: "This measure is not bipartisan, it contains much that is not stimulative and is northing short of generational theft," he said.

Democrats responded that Republicans lack credibility on the issue since policies of the Republican Bush administration contributed to a widening deficit. Charles Schumer a New York Democrat, said, "We know that the arguments about debt and generational theft ring hollow because you didn't make those arguments once in the last eight years when the deficit ballooned because of spending on the Iraq war and spending on tax cuts largely for the highest income people in America."

The debate was similar in the House. Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi offered closing comments.

Boehner said, "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 said "Congress is boldly and swiftly delivering on the president's promise of new jobs, new hope, and a new direction for the American people."

The legislation includes spending for local school districts, transportation, and renewable energy programs.

Supporters say the measure will create or save 3.5 million jobs.

The bill includes a measure opposed by U.S. trading partners that would favor U.S. steel, iron and manufactured goods for government projects. The European Union and other trading partners say the provision could undermine pledges by the leaders of major economies not to resort to protectionism during the global economic downturn.

Following that strong reaction, the provision was amended to require that the United States not violate trade agreements when implementing the law.

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