Just eight days after his Inauguration, President Obama’s recovery plan cleared the House Wednesday evening after Republicans failed in back-to-back efforts to shift the focus more to tax cuts and traditional highway and water infrastructure projects.
Final passage of the nearly $820 billion package came on a 244-188 vote with no Republicans supporting the president. This was a far cry from the bipartisan showing Obama had hoped for, but he remains firmly in command and Senate Republicans now concede that the president is likely to prevail there as well, with no reason to fear a protracted filibuster fight.
Changes could still be made in the course of the Senate floor debate which will stretch into next week. Republicans are pressing for more tax relief aimed at housing, and there is bipartisan interest in revisiting a small business capital gains exclusion that Obama himself supported as a candidate.
But the White House’s bigger worry could the final negotiations between the House and Senate, where a growing urban-rural split among Democrats threatens to delay a settlement.
This was seen most sharply Tuesday night when rural Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee wrecked havoc with a delicately negotiated compromise between House and Senate leaders over the distribution of $87 billion in Medicaid funds in the Obama plan. The same split is infecting disputes over a $1 billion crop disaster aid program favored by the Senate and how big a role the Commerce and Agriculture Departments should play in allocating billions of new dollars sought by Obama to expand access to broadband.
Democrats predicted that Republican support will grow as the bill moves closer to passage after these talks. “This is not Herbert Hoover time, the time for action is now,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) in closing debate.
In an interview, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pointed to the fact that Democrats had worked with President Bush, a Republican, last fall when the Treasury Department sought a massive $700 billion rescue fund for the financial markets.
“We have acted in a bipartisan fashion working with a Republican president. Now we see President Obama come down to talk to Republicans and before he gets there (Republican leader John) Boehner directs his people to vote against his program.”
In the votes running up to passage, the same partisan climate was evident, though there are clearly 30 to 40 Republican votes for some mix of stimulus spending beyond just tax breaks.
Taxes were the primary focus of the chief Republican alternative which proposed $445 billion in cuts together with about $34 billion in expanded jobless benefits. That measure failed 266-170, and minutes later Republicans came back with a plan to cut about $103 billion from the total package while also shifting some $60 billion into water and highway projects.
That also failed 270-159 with 31 Republicans voting in opposition. And in a prior vote to cut all of the new appropriations 43 Republicans had broken with their party to support the Democrats.
Anticipating trouble, the White House had downplayed its hope of winning over Republicans this early in the House. But to get no votes from the opposition party was striking given the efforts Obama had made to reach out.
Just a day before the vote he came to the Capitol to meet with rank-and-file Republicans in both the House and Senate, and Obama was to host congressional leaders from both parties Wednesday evening at a reception in the White House resident.
In earlier remarks before business executives Wednesday, the president had addressed Republican complaints about the bill sought to underline business support for the measure which includes $275 billion in tax cuts as passed by the House.
“Most of the money we’re investing as part of this plan will get out the oor immediately and go directly to job-creation, generating or saving three to four million new jobs,” Obama said in the East Room, alluding to the GOP claims that the package won’t be immediately boost the economy. “And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector – because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country.”
Here's a list of the House Democrats who voted against the economic stimulus. The bill passed on a 244-188 vote.
Allen Boyd (FL),
Bobby Bright (Ala.)
Jim Cooper (Tenn),
Brad Ellworth (Ind.)
Parker Griffith (Ala.)
Paul Kanjorski (Pa)
Frank Kratovil (Md)
Walt Minnick (Idaho)
Collin Peterson (Minn.)
Heath Shuler (N.C.)
Gene Taylor (N.C.)