US President Barack Obama's $825 billion package to stem the US recession headed toward anticipated passage in a sharply divided House of Representatives.
Most House Republicans were expected to oppose the proposal, saying it needs more tax cuts and less spending, but Democrats were confident that they had the votes to push it through as they seek a final bill for Obama to sign into law by mid-February.
“Some of us have heard the voice of the American people and their call for change” in the November election, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
The Democratic-led Senate is expected to pass a somewhat more costly version of the proposal, which would force the two chambers to work out differences.
But before the Senate votes, Republicans are hoping to win some modifications that would be supported by the Democratic president.
Obama met on Capitol Hill on Tuesday with House and Senate Republicans. While he again said he would listen to their ideas, Obama noted the urgency in passing legislation.
“The main message I have is that the statistics every day underscore the urgency of the economic situation. The American people expect action,” Obama said.
Shortly before Obama arrived, House Minority Leader John Boehner told fellow Republicans he could not vote for the stimulus bill in its current form and encouraged them to vote against it, a Boehner spokesman said.
The bill the House will debate on Wednesday was written by Democrats, who control the chamber. It combines $275 billion in temporary tax cuts to spur spending and business investment, along with hundreds of billions of dollars for job-creating investment projects, health industry improvements, expanded aid for the poor and unemployed and improving education.
Republicans have questioned whether the money actually would create and maintain up to 4 million jobs and whether the money would be spent over too long a period to be effective.
Senate Democratic leaders hope they can debate and pass their version of the legislation next week.
Once that is done, negotiators in the House and Senate would have to work out their differences so the two chambers could pass one bill that would be sent to Obama for his signature.
While Obama wants a strong bipartisan vote on final passage, that will depend on whether Republicans think they have gotten at least some of what they want, such as more business tax breaks in the bill.
“I think the president is sincere,” Boehner said after Tuesday's meeting with Obama. “We look forward to continue to work with him to improve this package.” (Reuters)