Stimulus Clears House Without GOP Support

Posted February 13, 2009 at 1:25pm

Updated: 3 p.m. The House on Friday voted 246-183 in favor of the $787 billion economic stimulus conference report on a strict party-line vote, setting the stage for a final Senate vote later in the day. President Barack Obama is hoping to sign the bill by Monday. Just seven House Democrats defected to vote against the massive package, which is Obama’s biggest priority, and no Republicans crossed over to join the Democrats. Moderate Republicans received significant attention from leaders of both parties heading into final passage, particularly Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.), who was wooed directly by Obama, and Rep. Mike Castle (Del.). In the end, all the moderates stuck by their leadership in opposing the bill. In a sometimes acrimonious debate, Democrats argued that the bill, which includes funding for infrastructure, schools, state budgets, tax cuts and an assortment of social welfare programs, would help reverse the deepening recession and provide a beefed-up safety net for the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs. The legislation also includes unprecedented support for renewable energy, health research and health care for the unemployed. “America expects us to act, and none of us can guarantee that we have all the answers, but economist after economist after economist says we have to act, and we have to act with speed,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “All of us pray that this bill will work.” Republicans, who have sought to eliminate every dollar of spending, urged tax cuts instead. “You cannot borrow and spend your way into prosperity,” conservative Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said. GOP lawmakers ripped into line items such as $8 billion for high-speed trains. But mostly they objected to the spending programs, arguing that they would result in a massive debt for the future with little benefit to the economy. “I hope this bill works, I really do, for the good of the country,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. But he called the bill “the epitome of what I came here to stop.” Boehner also complained that Republicans and their ideas were excluded. “We weren’t allowed to participate at all, and all the talk of bipartisanship that we’ve heard over the last several months went down the drain,” he said. “We need jobs, not mountains of debt to be paid by our children,” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said. Republican also complained that they had little time to analyze the conference report after the text was released late Thursday night. “Here we are with 1,100 pages that not one Member has read,” Boehner said, holding up the bill. “I don’t know how you can read 1,100 pages between midnight and now.” But House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) accused critics of trashing the bill by “trivializing.” Obey said the high-speed rail money would be awarded competitively by the Transportation Department, which is headed by a Republican. Obey said he thought the bill might actually undershoot the problem. “You show me a smaller problem that we have to confront, and I’ll be happy to produce a smaller bill,” he said. The seven Democrats who voted against the conference report were Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Parker Griffith (Ala.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Heath Shuler (N.C.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.). Five Democrats voted against the House stimulus bill but today switched their votes to support the conference report: Reps. Allen Boyd (Fla.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.) and Frank Kratovil (Md.).