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US Congress okays $787 bn stimulus package

Lalit K Jha in Washington | February 14, 2009 12:15 IST
Last Updated: February 14, 2009 12:50 IST

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In a major political victory for President Barack Obama, the US Congress has approved his $787-billion stimulus package designed to revive the battered American economy through tax cuts and creation of employment.

The momentous occasion for Obama came late Friday night when the Senate passed the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act by 60 to 38 votes, hours after the House of Representatives approved the similar version of the $787-billion stimulus package by 246 to 183 votes.

Obama is likely to sign the bill into law, as early as next week.

Amid the worsening financial crisis, some 3.6 million people have lost their jobs in 13 months, of which 1.8 million have been in the last three months alone.

Despite the best of his efforts, Obama failed to gain support of even one Republican Congressman in the House.

The bill could barely scrap through the Senate, which required a minimum of 60 votes, due to the support of three Republican Senators -- Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

In fact the Senate had to wait for several hours last night as Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio was flown back and forth on a government plane from the state, where he attended services of his deceased mother. His was the 60th and the last vote cast after 11 pm.

Obama says this bill would help in creating 3.5 million jobs in the next two years and revive the US economy facing its worst crisis since the Great Depression of last century.

Earlier in the day, White House spokesperson, Robert Gibbs, said there would be signing ceremony wherein the President would talk about the positive impacts of this legislation.

"I think he'll do that, as well, in Denver on Tuesday," Gibbs said.

Obama would be travelling to Denver, Colorado, Tuesday where he will hold an event on the economic recovery plan. Early this week, Obama spent most of his time in drumming support for the stimulus package.

As the Opposition Republicans put stiff resistance to its passage, Obama hit the road addressing people in town hall meetings in States like Indian and Florida and even addressed a prime-time live press conference from White House.

Addressing the members of the US corporate leadership, on Friday morning, Obama said that the plan would not only create 3.5 million jobs in next two years, but would also put people to work building wind turbines and solar panels and fuel-efficient cars.

"We'll upgrade our schools, creating 21st-century classrooms and libraries and labs for millions of children across America. We'll computerise our health care system, at last, to save billions of dollars and countless lives as we (will) reduce medical errors," he said.

We'll lay down broadband Internet lines to connect rural schools and small businesses, so they can compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world. We will rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and repair our dangerously deficient dams and levees so we don't face another (hurricane) Katrina," Obama said.

"In addition to saving and creating jobs, we'll also ensure that folks who've lost jobs through no fault of their own can receive greater unemployment benefits and continue their health care coverage," he said.

It will provide badly needed middle-class tax relief, putting money in the pockets of workers and their families at a time when many of them are experiencing greater distress.

It will also provide sensible tax relief to businesses that are trying to make payroll and create jobs.

"Our focus is not only on large businesses, but also small businesses that are probably feeling the credit crunch most acutely," Obama said.

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