US Senate clears Obama’s $800 bn stimulus plan (Lead)

February 11th, 2009 - 11:15 am ICT by IANS  

Only three Republicans - Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter - Tuesday voted for the bill that provides roughly $293 billion for tax relief and $546 billion for spending measures.

No Republican voted for the $820 billion House version of stimulus, which included $182 billion in tax relief and $638 billion in spending.

Representatives of the two chambers now have to reconcile the differences between their proposed economic recovery packages. President Barack Obama wants both chambers to come to an agreement quickly so he can have the bill on his desk by Presidents’ Day next Monday.

Among the differences are three tax amendments in the Senate version: One would protect middle- and upper middle-income families from having to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax; the others would offer new temporary tax breaks for individuals who buy a home or car this year.

Two areas likely to be contentious in the House-Senate negotiations will pertain to funding for education and funding for a state fiscal stabilisation fund, analysts said.

The Senate package reduced or eliminated the funding for a number of education measures that Democrats in the House and President Obama supported.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters after the vote that the negotiations would start soon and could last through the night. “We think we can get a lot of our work done in the next 24 hours.”

But he also acknowledged that some provisions could take longer to resolve.

“I’ve got the House to worry about. I’ve got the president to worry about.

And I’ve got three Republicans that I’m concerned about,” Reid said.

But the deal is unlikely to satisfy the majority of Republicans, who still contend that too much money in the House and Senate bills will be spent on measures that are not, in their view, likely to create jobs.

“On a cost-benefit ratio, what I’m telling you is that the vast majority of Republicans in the House and Senate feel that this measure is not timely, temporary or targeted,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters.

Meanwhile, Obama took his stimulus sales pitch to a town hall meeting in Fort Myers, Florida where much like the one he held Monday in Elkhart, Indiana he emphasised again that the country is not in a “run-of-the-mill recession” and action cannot wait.

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