The U.S. House of Representatives Friday passed (222 to 203) a tax cut package aimed at stimulating a stagnant U.S. economy, a key priority for President Bush.
The Republican-sponsored bill, passed on a party-line vote, would reduce taxes by $550 billion through the year 2013.
"This bill creates jobs and stimulates the economy," said Congressman Bill Thomas, a California Republican, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.
But Democrats say the measure would cause the federal deficit to soar, and would benefit only the wealthy.
House Democratic Leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California, unsuccessfully tried to persuade House members to defeat the bill.
"I urge my colleagues to reject this reckless, irresponsible Republican tax cut for millionaires that leaves working families out in the cold," she said.
Congressman John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, was more emotional. "This bill has no compassion, not one ounce of compassion," he said. "It is a shame, and it is a disgrace, and I just do not understand it."
But House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, dismissed the Democrats' concerns. "Consumers drive this economy," he said. "So this package is designed to put more money in the hands of consumers, so they can invest in the economy. Folks, that is not for rich people, that is for real people, people who go to work every day, people who punch a time clock, people who make this economy work."
In the Senate, lawmakers are considering a $350 billion tax cut package. Once Senators act on it, differences in the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled, before the legislation can be sent to President Bush for his signature.
Mr. Bush initially called for $726 billion in tax cuts in his State of the Union address in January. Opposition by Democrats and some moderate Republicans forced Congress to reduce the package.