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House Offers $825 Billion Stimulus

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By Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 16, 2009

House Democrats yesterday presented an $825 billion stimulus package that includes more government spending and less tax relief than President-elect Barack Obama had proposed, potentially weakening support among Republicans for a plan that congressional leaders hope to pass by mid-February.

The aim of the legislation is to bolster the nation's sagging economy by providing incentives for companies to create jobs and money for individuals and state governments struggling to cope with the downturn.

The bulk of the package -- about $550 billion -- would be used to build new schools and highways, invest in energy and health-care projects and provide unemployment and health benefits for out-of-work Americans. The rest would provide tax relief for businesses and individuals. If approved, most workers would get about a $500 tax cut in their paychecks.

The House measure is far larger than lawmakers envisioned when the stimulus idea surfaced last fall and, as the recession shows signs of worsening, Democrats predict the price tag could grow to nearly $1 trillion before the bill reaches Obama's desk.

"This plan is a significant down payment on our most urgent challenges," Obama said of the House effort. He will press for action on the stimulus during an appearance today at a wind-turbine manufacturer in Bedford Heights, Ohio.

But the bill was not warmly received by Republicans, who had been encouraged by Obama's commitment to designating a larger portion of the stimulus to tax cuts. A plan outlined by the president-elect last week would have provided $300 billion in tax cuts as part of a $775 package, with tax cuts representing about 40 percent of the overall total.

GOP lawmakers also balked at the thousands of individual projects designated for funding in the House plan. "Oh, my God," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said to reporters. "My notes here say that I'm disappointed. I just can't tell you how shocked I am at what I'm seeing."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described the legislation as a "first step along the way" in what is expected to be an intense, four-week negotiating period with the Senate. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) have pledged to deliver the legislation to Obama before Congress departs for a President's Day recess. Until then, Pelosi predicted "practically no sleep on anyone's part."

Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, called the bill "the largest effort by any legislative body on the planet" -- and he warned it could be followed by another emergency funding measure if the economy worsens. Obey told reporters at a briefing, "This product may undershoot the mark."

His panel expects to approve the plan on Thursday, the same day the Ways and Means Committee takes up the tax portion of the package. The tentative schedule calls for the full House to vote Jan. 28 on the entire $825 billion package, with the Senate considering the bill during the first week of February.

Acknowledging concerns about potential government waste, Congress is creating a Web site -- http://www.recovery.gov -- to allow the public to track stimulus spending and file complaints. Obey said about 60 percent of the spending portion would assist states, local governments and local nonprofit organizations in providing social services, and that most of the money would be spent based on funding formulas.

"No earmarks," the chairman asserted.


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