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Congress Passes Economic Stimulus Bill - 2002-03-08

The U.S. Senate, following the lead of the House, has passed by an 85-9 vote, an economic stimulus package and sent it to President Bush for his signature.

The measure extends jobless benefits and provides billions of dollars in tax breaks to businesses to help boost economic growth.

Although the package contains less than what President Bush sought, he says he will sign it.

Senate passage came a day after the head of the U.S. central bank, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, told Congress the stimulus package would have little impact on an economy that has begun improving.

Still, supporters, including Republican Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, argue the package is needed to ensure recovery. "We still need to create more jobs, to get the unemployment numbers down, and get those people back in the workforce," Senator Lott said.

Opponents, including Democrat Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, say the cost of the package, about $42 billion over 10 years, is something the United States can ill afford. "We just voted for a huge, huge addition to the fiscal deficit of this country, at a time when we are struggling to find payments for transportation, health care, child care, education," Senator Dodd said.

Passage of the legislation came after months of partisan gridlock.

But in a congressional election year, many lawmakers were concerned about failing to act on the measure before Monday, the six month anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. Those attacks had deepened the economic slump.