$787 Billion In Spending & Benefit Increases and Tax Cuts
Federal Debt Limit to Hit $12 Trillion
Both Houses of the Congress, first the House on a vote of 246 to 183, and then later the Senate, on a vote of 60 to 38 yesterday voted to pass the so-called "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,"a $787 billion "stimulus package" of tax cuts and more than a half-trillion dollars in new federal spending, that is supported by President Obama, giving him his first major legislative victory.
The stimulus plan provides 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 raises the nation’s debt limit to about $12 trillion.The non partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the legislation will raise our national debt ceiling up to $12 trillion dollars, the highest in our nation's history (one trillion is equal to 1,000 billion).
The package restricts 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.
From the CBO letter:
Combining both spending and revenue effects, CBO estimates that enacting the conference agreement for H.R. 1 would increase federal budget deficits by $185 billion over the remaining months of fiscal year 2009, by $399 billion in 2010, by $134 billion in 2011, and by $787 billion over the 2009-2019 period.The United States Senate was able to muster an emergency vote on the measure last night before going on vacation for ten days, following agreement being reached among Democrats in the Conference Committee over differing versions of the legislation that had earlier passed the two houses.
The Senate vote yesterday came with the assistance of three Republican senators: Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and both United States Senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. They were the only three Republicans who voted in favor of the final measure, or of either of the earlier measures that had passed the two houses.
In spite of the claimed emergency passage, the President will not sign the measure until Monday.
Holding the emergency vote yesterday in both houses also violated an earlier commitment made by a vote on Wednesday, instructing on the part of Democrat leadership to publicly post the final version of the 1,073 page bill on the internet for 48 hours prior to voting for final passage. A final cut-and-paste version of the bill was circulated among the lawmakers only at 11 pm Thursday, just a few hours before the debate and the House vote, thus violating the committment.
According to David M. Herzenhorn reporting in the New York Times, the final Senate tally, which started earlier in the evening, came several hours later, at 10:47 at night when Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, flew on a government plane into the capitol last night, having been attending the funeral of his mother who passed away earlier in the week. His was the 60th vote, allowing the "emergency" to move forward, on what was reported by the Times as the longest-ever vote congressional vote.
The Senate finally adopted the bill at 10:47 p.m. after what appeared to be the longest Congressional vote in history. The peculiar 5-hour 17-minute process was required because Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, had to return to Washington from his home state after attending a funeral home visitation for his mother, who died Feb. 2.From the Bloomberg News story by Brian Faler:
Under a procedural deal between the parties, the bill needed 60 votes to pass. The vote began at 5:30 p.m., but from 7:07 p.m., when Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, cast his “aye,” the tally hung at 59 to 38, until Mr. Brown arrived.
The Senate late yesterday voted 60 to 38 to approve the package of tax cuts and more than a half-trillion dollars in new federal spending. Three Republicans joined Democrats in favor of the measure. Earlier in the day the House passed the bill, 246 to 183, with no Republicans in favor. The votes give Obama the first major legislative victory of his presidency.No Republicans in the House voted for this package, while two Republicans apparently did not vote on the bill, given their current membership of 178. The Washington Post story by Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane explains how a rumor apparently got started that two Republicans would vote "yes" on the bill:
But during yesterday's vote, Reps. Michael N. Castle (Del.) and Fred Upton (Mich.), the two moderate Republicans considered most likely to support the stimulus, moved to chairs on the center aisle of the House floor and stared at the electronic board tallying their colleagues' votes. Upton, who traveled with Obama to Indiana on Monday, and Castle, a close friend of Vice President Biden, cast "no" votes moments before the clock ran out.Seven Democrat House members joined the Republicans in voting against the bill: newly-elected Congressman Bobby Bright of Alabama (former Mayor of Montgomery); long-time (1987) liberal Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, who (as reported by The Swamp) said he could not justify borrowing money for tax cuts; newly-elected Representative Parker Griffith of Alabama's 5th District, a competitive Huntsville-area district; newly-elected Walt Minnick of Idaho's 1st District, which includes a portion of Boise; Collin Peterson of Minnesota's mosty rural and northwestern 7th district; Heath Shuler of North Carolina, who said the bill had too much spending and directly criticized the Democrats for not posting it for debate; and Gene Taylor of Mississippi's 4th District, a member of the Democratic Congressional Blue Dog Coalition.
One other Democrat, Representative Dan Lipinski of Illinois, voted "present," he claimed on principle.
Strangely, James Clyburn of South Carolina, the House Whip, did not vote on the bill either. He reportedly left to attend his daughter's wedding. As of this writing (02-14 11:26 am), the Congressional Record does not have the official vote on the bill posted.
Horse trading over the bill resulted in several controversial measures being retained, while others were not.
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.House Republican leader, John Boehner of Ohio said that Republicans recognized the need for a stimulus bill to create jobs, but that this one was focused instead on spending.
"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."
He also noted that it was impossible for any member of congress in either house to have read the final version before passage, holding up a weighty version of the bill during the final debate, and dropping it to the House floor.
Republicans were also cut out of all key conference negotiations over provisions of the final bill.
The full Conference Report in the Congressional Record on the bill -- H.R. 1 -- can be found here in five parts.
Update: Arthur Delaney at Slate has an interesting wrap-up on the media coverage of the passage of the bill.
All the papers lead with the big news that Congress passed president Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill Friday night. The Washington Post says the bill's passage marks the beginning of a new ideological era with the federal government at the center of the nation's economic recovery. The New York Times highlights the bill's limits on executive compensation, which are stricter than those proposed recently by the Obama administration. The Wall Street Journal notes that Wall Street reacted to the "last minute" restrictions with consternation. The Los Angeles Times leads with a sunny report that the stimulus will stimulate "almost every corner of American society.". . . . (more)
A front-page WP article says Congress went much further than Obama wanted to go in limiting executive pay, and the NYT's lead story says Senate Democrats actually did so over the administration's objections. Executives at all firms that have benefited or will benefit from government funds will be allowed bonuses of only one-third the size of their salaries and only available in company stock, and only redeemable after the government's investment has been repaid. The WSJ reports that the rules are somewhat open to interpretation.
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