A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers has announced an agreement on a $789 billion measure aimed at helping to jolt the U.S. economy out of recession. Although many Republicans continue to oppose the measure, the deal in a House-Senate conference committee clears the way for final congressional votes.
Moving far more quickly than many had thought likely or possible, lawmakers in the 10 member House-Senate committee announced the agreement after less than 24 hours of negotiations.
"Like any negotiation, this involved give and take, and if you don't mind my saying that is an understatement," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The agreement drops the total to $789 billion, while both Senate and House-passed measures exceeded $800 billion.
A combination of low and middle income tax cuts, making up about 35 percent of the bill, and domestic spending, its supporters say it meets President Barack Obama's goal of creating or saving as many as four million jobs.
Susan Collins of Maine was among only three moderate Senate Republicans who joined the Democratic majority there. She says money trimmed from the bill reflects an effort to focus it more sharply to help the economy.
"It is a fiscally-responsible number that reflects our efforts to truly focus this bill on programs, and policies and tax relief that will help turn our econ around, create jobs and provide relief to the families of our country," she said.
Collins said the agreement increases spending on infrastructure projects, more than $150 billion in the proposed measure.
Republican opponents kept up their criticisms, primarily that the measure contains un-targeted spending and not the right level of tax relief.
House Republican leader John Boehner voiced disappointment with the agreement, repeating his assertion that the measure will not create jobs quickly enough.
"It appears that they have made a bad bill worse by reducing the amount of tax relief for American families and small businesses, and adding more wasteful Washington spending," he said.
But Senator Arlen Specter, another moderate Republican who worked with Democrats, said action was required.
"This is obviously a very difficult vote in view of the large deficit and national debt which we have, but I believe it is indispensable, that strong action be taken," he said.
White House aides, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, joined in the negotiations on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers behind the agreement hope a final conference report will be ready in the next two days that the House and Senate will vote on. Approval would send the legislation to President Obama for signature.
An eventual Senate vote is expected to mirror earlier results in which majority Democrats, with help from the three Republicans, achieved the 60 votes needed to overcome any procedural block.
It remains to be seen how a vote will turn out in the House, where no Republicans supported a House-passed measure, but where Democrats hold a strong enough majority to pass measures easily.
Republican leaders declined to predict how many in their party might support final legislation.