Sabtu, 14 Februari 2009

Obama savors victory as Congress approves stimulus

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill Monday that seeks to combat the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Obama on Saturday savored his first major victory in Congress, the day after the bill was passed with lawmakers largely oting along party lines.

The Senate approved the measure 60-38 with three Republican moderates providing crucial support. Hours earlier, the House vote was 246-183, with all Republicans opposed to the package of tax cuts and federal spending that Obama has made the centerpiece of his plan for economic recvery.

The president could sign the bill as early as next week, less than a month after taking office. He described the bill's passage as a "major milestone on our road to recovery."

Speaking in his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, Obama said, "I will sign this legislation into law shorly, and we'll begin making the immediate investments necessary to put people back to work doing the work America needs done."

At the same time, he cautioned, "The problems that led us into this crisis are deep and widespread, and our response must be equal to the task."

Despite Obama's early biparsan goals, Republican opposition was nearly unanimous to the $787 billion package of tax cuts and federal spending on which Obama has staked his presidency.

Conservatives in both houses have been relentless critics, arguing the plan is filled with wasteful spending and that greater tax cuts would be more ffective in creating jobs.

Told that no House Republican backed the measure Friday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reacted by citing another number: "3.5 million jobs that we look forward to saving or creating."

Obama gave a thumbs-up sign upon hearing of the package's passage in the House. He hailed the massive bill and the "spirited debate" that accompanied it, but warned that "it's only the beginning of what we must do to turn our economy around."

He said those things include implementing the separate, newly reconfigured $700 billion financial industry bailout program, stemming home foreclosures, reforming financial sector regulations and crafting what he called a "responsible" federal budget.

The Senate vote was held up to allow time for Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown to fly back from Ohio, where his mother died earlier in the week. His was the decisive 60th vote for the bill in the 100-seat Senate.

The compromise stimulus bill includes spending on infrastructure projects, expanded unemployment benefits, aid for small businesses and billions to help strapped states. Obama's much touted tax break for middle- and working-class Americans survived but was scaled back. To tamp down costs, several tax provisions were dropped or sharply cut back.

The president also won money for two other administration priorities - information technology in health care, and "green jobs" to make buildings more energy-efficient and reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil.

Final details included the drafting of precise language on trade. The House included a "Buy America" restriction forbidding the use of foreign steel and other products on infrastructure projects funded in the bill. Negotiators were largely going with a Senate version that is much less restrictive, saying the U.S. would abide by its international trade commitments.

The approval caps an early period of accomplishment for the Democrats, who won control of the White House and expanded their majorities in Congress in last fall's elections.

Since taking office on Jan. 20, the president has signed legislation extending government-financed health care to millions of lower-income children who lack it, a bill that President George W. Bush twice vetoed. He also has placed his signature on a measure making it easier for workers to sue their employers for alleged job discrimination, effectively overturning a ruling by the Supreme Court's conservative majority.

Obama made the stimulus a cornerstone of his economic recovery plan even before he took office, but his calls for bipartisanship were an early casualty.

Republicans complained they had been locked out of the early decisions, and Democrats countered that the Republican's House leader had tried to rally opposition even before the president met privately with his party's ranks.

taken from: the jakartapost

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