US Senate approves $838-bn stimulus bill

The US Senate approved an economic stimulus bill of some $838 billion on Tuesday,clearing the way for negotiations with the House....

Written by New York Times | Washington | Published: February 11, 2009 1:44:12 am

The US Senate approved an economic stimulus bill of some $838 billion on Tuesday,clearing the way for negotiations with the House and increasing the prospects that a final piece of legislation can be on President Obama’s desk within days.

The 61-to-37 vote was largely along party lines,as expected,and followed closing arguments with some sharp partisan edges. Senator Charles E. Schumer,Democrat of New York,called on Republicans to acknowledge not only that the country is in crisis but “to acknowledge that they actually lost the election.”

Senator Daniel K. Inouye,Democrat of Hawaii who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee,said the bleak statistics on unemployment will only get worse “if the federal government does not take action immediately.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada,alluding to the president’s remarks at a news conference on Monday evening,said: “Last night,President Obama brought his case for his economic recovery plan directly to the American people. He clearly explained that no new President relishes the thought of starting an administration with a major investment of public funds to clean up the economic mess left by the previous administration.

“Not one member of Congress or one single American family relishes the difficult choices left for us to make,” Reid added. “But with the growing likelihood that this crisis will grow into what the President termed a possible catastrophe,the worst decision would be indecision.”

Only a few Republicans voted for the bill. They were Senators Arlen Specter,of Pennsylvania,and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins,both of Maine,whose support was vital when the bill narrowly cleared a procedural hurdle requiring 60 “yes” votes on Monday.

Obama,who traveled to Florida on Tuesday to promote the stimulus package,has pressed Congress to deliver him a bill by next Monday. But Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland,the House majority leader,said Tuesday that negotiations may take longer — “Thursday,Friday,Saturday,Sunday,Monday,maybe Wednesday,Thursday of next week,” he told reporters,according to Reuters.

The House last week passed an $820 billion bill — without a single Republican vote in favor — that provides more aid to state and local governments than does the Senate version,which includes more tax cuts.

Republicans argued futilely that the Senate stimulus measure was almost a misnomer.

“We’re taking an enormous risk — an enormous risk — with other people’s money,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky,the minority leader,said in urging his Republican colleagues to vote against the measure.

McConnell said the package was “full of waste” and could only be counted on to increase the nation’s debt.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa,the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee,said the final cost of the bill could exceed $1 trillion,counting interest,and burden future generations of taxpayers.

“Not a pretty fiscal picture,” Grassley said,“and it’s going to get a lot uglier as a result of this bill.”

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