U.S. Congress passes economic stimulus package
Published Saturday, February 14, 2009 11:30AM EST
The U.S. Congress passed President Barack Obama's massive economic stimulus bill late Friday night in hopes it will help turn around the country's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Three moderate Republicans -- Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania -- helped Senate Democrats pass the $787 billion legislation by a margin of 60-38.
Earlier in the day, the House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 246-183, with all Republicans voting against the measure.
Obama is expected to sign the bill early next week.
In his weekly radio address, Obama said Saturday that the bill is a "major milestone on our road to recovery."
However, he cautioned that the legislation is only a first step in the effort to turn around a troubled economy.
"This historic step won't be the end of what we do to turn our economy around, but rather the beginning," Obama said. "The problems that led us into this crisis are deep and widespread, and our response must be equal to the task."
On Friday, Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana said the measure will allow American families and businesses to weather the economic storm while laying the groundwork for new jobs.
"It will shore up our schools and roads and bridges, and infuse cash into new sectors like green energy and technology that will sustain our economy for the long term," Baucus said in a statement.
However, Senate Republic Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier in the day that the bill was packed with unnecessary spending.
"A stimulus bill that was supposed to be timely, targeted and temporary is none of the above," McConnell told his Senate colleagues before the vote. "And this means Congress is about to approve a stimulus that's unlikely to have much stimulative effect."
The bill is the costliest legislation ever passed in Congress, and allocates billions of dollars in aid in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, medical care, job retraining and other measures.
Tens of billions of dollars will be given to states to avoid service cuts or tax hikes, and more than $48 billion will go toward infrastructure projects such as road and bridge construction, transit and high-speed rail construction.
The bill also includes:
- A $400 tax break for individuals and $800 for couples.
- $70 billion to protect upper-middle-class and wealthy taxpayers from an income tax increase.
- Funds to expand computer technology in the health-care industry.
- Billions of dollars to create so-called "green" jobs.
With files from The Associated Press