The Republican-led House of Representatives narrowly passed, by a 216 to 214 vote, a $100 billion package aimed at boosting the ailing U.S. economy. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Passage of the bill which combines business tax breaks and rebates to workers - came just hours after President Bush urged lawmakers to act. The President argued the package would help the nation's economy recover from the shock of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey agreed. He said, "Mr. and Mrs. America, it is your money. You worked hard for it. You earned it. You know what you can accomplish with it if it is left in your hands. So we take the opportunity to leave it to you, to invest, build, create, create jobs, consume, buy, on your own behalf. Provide for your own families. Do well for yourself, and by doing so, do good for America."
But Democrats say the bill is purely partisan and favors the wealthy and big corporations at the expense of those who lose their jobs.
Some Democrats, like Congressman Jim Turner of Texas, argue the tax cuts would take money away from the U.S. effort to fight terrorism. "Funding this war and funding public safety," he said, "must take priority over tax cuts. The investment we must make will represent the very best stimulus package we could devise. The investments in war-fighting, the investments in security measures, the investments in public health will all find their way into the American economy, creating jobs and economic activities, and they will do so immediately."
The legislation passed after lawmakers rejected a Democratic alternative that would have expanded benefits for unemployed workers and helped them pay for health insurance coverage.