House passes economic recovery package

January 29, 2008 12:23:15 PM PST
The House, seizing a rare moment of bipartisanship to respond to the economy's slump, overwhelmingly passed a $146 billion aid package Tuesday that would speed rebates of $600-$1,200 to most taxpayers. The plan, approved 385-35 after little debate, would send at least some rebate to anyone with at least $3,000 in income, with more going to families with children and less going to wealthier taxpayers.

It faced a murky future in the Senate, though, where Democrats and Republicans backed a larger package that adds billions of dollars for senior citizens and the unemployed, and shrinks the rebate to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples. That plan, written by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, would deliver checks even to the richest taxpayers, who are disqualified under the House-passed measure.

Both versions would provide tax breaks to businesses to spur equipment and other purchases.

Baucus, D-Mont., planned a Wednesday vote in his committee, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he hopes to have it approved by week's end. Congressional leaders are aiming to send the measure to President Bush by Feb. 15.

But the divergent plans -- and bids by Senate Democrats and Republicans to swell the package with more add-ons -- could drag out that schedule.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, said the Senate should simply pass the House measure, which would send it straight to Bush for his signature.

"This is not a time to get into some kind of testing of wills between the two congressional bodies. This is a time to show we can rise above partisanship, do something important, and do it quickly," McConnell said.

The House plan brought together Democrats and Republicans, both of whom surrendered cherished proposals to reach a deal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cautioned against adding items that could hinder an economic recovery or scuttle the bipartisan agreement.

"It's important that this bill not get overloaded. I have a full agenda of things I would like to have in the package, but we have to contain the price," Pelosi said. "We made a decision, because that's where we could find our common ground."

Republican leaders, too, described the measure as an imperfect compromise that would provide a needed jolt to the economy.

Americans "expect us to find ways to work together, not reasons to fight with each other," said Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who forged the agreement with Pelosi in consultation with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson.

"The sooner we get this relief in the hands of the American people, the sooner they can begin to do their job of being good consumers," Boehner said.

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