The Democratic-controlled House approved an $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday night with spending increases and tax cuts at the heart of the young administration's plan to revive a badly ailing economy, including more than $80 billion for state Medicaid budgets and more than $20 billion to help doctors and hospitals adopt health information technology.
The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obamas pleas for bipartisan support.
Included is money for traditional job-creating programs such as highway construction and mass transit projects. But the measure tickets far more for unemployment benefits, healthcare and food stamp increases designed to aid victims of the economic downturn.
We don't have a moment to spare, Obama declared at the White House as congressional allies hastened to do his bidding in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The vote sent the bill to the Senate, where debate could begin as early as Monday on a companion measure already taking shape. Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislation ready for Obamas signature by mid-February.
A mere eight days after Inauguration Day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesdays events heralded a new era. The ship of state is difficult to turn, said the California Democrat. But that is what we must do. That is what President Obama called us to do in his inaugural address.
With unemployment at its highest level in a quarter-century, the banking industry wobbling despite the infusion of staggering sums of bailout money and states struggling with budget crises, Democrats said the legislation was desperately needed.
Republicans said the bill was short on tax cuts and contained too much spending, much of it wasteful and unlikely to help laid-off Americans.
The partys leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, said the measure wont create many jobs, but it will create plenty of programs and projects through slow-moving government spending. A GOP alternative, comprised almost entirely of tax cuts, was defeated, 266-170, moments before the final vote.