Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Senate approves stimulus plan

This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted on Tuesday to approve an $838 billion economic stimulus plan that stands to become the most expansive anti-recession effort by the United States government since World War II.

Congressional leaders said they would immediately begin to work out the differences between the Senate measure and an $820 billion version passed by the House, with President Obama also likely to have a strong voice in the talks.

As the Senate voted on the recovery package, President Obama told an audience at a town meeting in Fort Myers, Fla.: “Doing nothing is not an option. You didn’t send me to Washington to do nothing.”

Mr. Obama, who took to the road for the second straight day to push for Congressional approval of his economic recovery package, appeared alongside Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, a Republican, in an effort to show that his plan has attracted bipartisan support in economically troubled parts of America. On Monday he traveled to Elkhart, Ind., where the unemployment rate is 15.3 percent.

Despite numerous differences in the two bills approved in the Senate and the House, the overall scope of the economical recovery effort is now clear — sprawling in its reach, with tax cuts for individuals, families and businesses, assistance for jobless and low income Americans, aid to states, and huge spending on education, healthcare, energy and technology.

The Senate approved its bill most along party lines, by a vote of 61 to 37, with three Republicans joining 56 Democrats and two independents in favor. (There is one vacancy in the Senate, from Minnesota, and Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a Republican nominated to become Mr. Obama’s Commerce Secretary, did not vote.)

The opposition of most Republicans underscored insurmountable disagreements, over both economic and political philosophy, in addressing the recession.

A couple of comments here. First, the vote was a party-line vote, with only three Republicans supporting the stimulus plan. These Republicans were senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snow from Maine, and Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania. In a sense, it is no surprise, since the Obama administration has been lobbying heavily for these senators' support to the stimulus bill. Also voting was Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who has been battling a brain tumor. Kennedy made a special trip to Washington in order to support this measure.

This is a huge, first victory for President Obama. It shows the country that Obama can move a major piece of legislation through Congress, despite almost total opposition from the Republicans. And there will probably be even more major legislative pieces that will have to go through Congress--reform bills for the financial and banking industry and health care reform are two huge problems that the Obama administration will have to tackle soon. The big loser here is the congressional Republicans. They decided to scrap bipartisanship with the Obama administration to craft an economic stimulus bill to help the American people, in order to play an opposition party with their own, crazed dreams of political power play. The Republicans wanted Obama to fail with this plan, wanted the U.S. economy to sour, and the American people to suffer, so that they can get elected back into power in the next midterm, and presidential, elections. They do not care about governing the country when they are in power--they just care about absolute power.

We will soon see just how far this stimulus bill will help the U.S. economy.

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