Thursday, February 19, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
WHAT'S THE RUSH?
'URGENT' $TIMULUS ON HOLD FOR BAM'S WEEKEND OFF
February 15, 2009
After pushing Congress for weeks to hurry up and pass the massive $787 billion stimulus bill, President Obama promptly took off for a three-day holiday getaway.
Obama arrived at his home in Chicago on Friday, and treated wife Michelle to a Valentine's Day dinner downtown last night. The couple was spotted leaving upscale Table Fifty-Two, which specializes in Southern cuisine, with the first lady toting what appeared to be a doggie bag.
The president plans to spend the Presidents' Day weekend in the Windy City, and is not expected to sign the bill until Tuesday, when he travels to Denver to discuss his economic plan.
Both the House and Senate passed the bill Friday night.
The push to get the bill through before the holiday weekend was so frantic, members of Congress didn't have a chance to read all 1,071 pages of the document before they could vote.
"In a perfect world it would have been nice to have had more time to process it," said Ilan Kayatsky, a spokesman for Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
Meanwhile, Gov. Paterson called yesterday for fiscal restraint with the massive influx of federal aid. His budget office estimated that New York will receive $24.6 billion over the next two years, $4 billion more than first believed. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, February 15, 2009
U.S. Congress Gives Final Approval to $787 Billion Stimulus
By Brian Faler
Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Congress gave final approval to President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package in hopes of wresting the economy out of recession through a mix of tax cuts and federal spending.
The Senate approved the package 60 to 38 with three Republicans joining Democrats in voting “yes.” Earlier today, the House passed the measure 246 to 183 with no Republicans in favor and seven Democrats opposed. The bill, Obama’s first major victory on Capitol Hill, now heads to his desk to be signed into law.
“After all the debate, this legislation can be summed up in one word: Jobs,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, during today’s floor debate. “The American people need action and they need action now.”
Because of paperwork that needs to be done, the legislation will reach the president’s desk “no earlier than Monday,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Democrats predict the plan would save or create 3.5 million jobs. Its biggest item is a $400 payroll tax cut for individuals and $800 for couples. Retirees, disabled veterans and others who don’t pay payroll taxes would get a $250 payment.
Republicans argued that the bill contained too much government spending and, because of that, wouldn’t do enough to boost the economy.
“I think everyone in this chamber on both sides of the aisle understands we need to act,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. “But a bill that’s supposed to be about jobs, jobs, jobs has turned into a bill that’s all about spending, spending and spending.”
Businesses won several tax breaks, including faster write- offs for equipment purchased in 2009 and incentives for companies that produce and invest in renewable resources such as solar and wind power. A business tax break pushed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would ease near-term tax burdens on companies and buyout firms that restructure debt without entering bankruptcy. The bill also includes an alternative minimum tax cut.
Democratic congressional leaders negotiated the final version of the bill this week after the House and Senate passed their own proposals.
When the House voted on its version last month, it passed 244-188 with no Republicans in support and 11 Democrats in opposition.
The measure needed 60 votes to pass the Senate. The three Republicans voting for the bill in that chamber were Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine. Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrats who is battling brain cancer, didn’t vote and one of Minnesota’s Senate seats remains vacant.
Representative Allen Boyd of Florida was one of the Democrats who voted for the plan today after opposing the original House proposal. He said lawmakers “have worked hard to make this a better product,” in part by reducing some of the spending the House version had included.
Senator Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who withdrew yesterday as Obama’s commerce secretary nominee, voted against the plan. In a statement, he called it a “so-called stimulus plan” that “has become sidetracked by misplaced spending and a lack of attention to the true problems facing the nation.”
The stimulus plan would provide a half-trillion dollars for jobless benefits, renewable energy projects, highway construction, food stamps, broadband, Pell college tuition grants, high-speed rail projects and scores of other programs. It would raise the nation’s debt limit to about $12 trillion.
The package would restrict executive compensation at all companies receiving assistance from the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, not just those receiving “exceptional” aid as the Obama administration announced last week. The legislation limits bonuses and other incentive pay at those companies on a sliding scale according to how much federal aid they take.
Bonus restrictions would be imposed on senior executive officers and the next 20 highest paid employees at companies that receive more than $500 million from TARP. Companies receiving between $250 million and $500 million would face restrictions on bonuses to their senior executive officers and their next 10 highest-paid workers. The limits would apply to the top five employees at companies receiving between $25 million and $250 million.
Other details of what provisions survived negotiations between the House and Senate were still emerging even as the plan headed for congressional passage.
Lawmakers dropped provisions barring funds from going to museums, arts centers and theaters. A ban on money to casinos, golf courses, zoos and swimming pools was retained. Lawmakers deleted provisions requiring businesses receiving stimulus funding to use E-Verify, a government program used to ensure workers are in the country legally.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said today the stimulus package would cost $787 billion, rather than $789 billion lawmakers estimated earlier this week. The plan would pump $185 billion into the economy this year and $399 billion next year, the agency said.
“This country faces the greatest crisis that we’ve seen in terms of the economy since the ‘30s,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, said as he urged passage of the bill. “The other tool normally available to us is monetary policy in the form of low interest rates through actions of the Federal Reserve. We’ve already fired that bullet - - the only bullet left is fiscal policy.”
Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, said “you cannot borrow and spend your way to prosperity” and that Democrats were aiming to “stimulate big government.”
Democrats released the text of the plan late yesterday, prompting complaints from Republicans they didn’t have enough time to review the legislation before voting on it.
“It is over a thousand pages,” said Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican. “It is physically impossible for any member to have read this bill.”