Economic Stimulus Bill Passes in Senate

A revised edition of the economic stimulus bill passed through the Senate on Monday, Feb. 9th, with a vote of 61 to 36. All Democrats, as well as three Republican Senators, voted for the bill, while all who opposed were Republicans. This may indicate that the bill proposal has been a point of division between parties, as well as houses of Congress. President Obama hopes to have the bill passed by Monday, Feb. 16th.

There are several differences in the amounts of money allocated by each bill and how that money will be spent. The Senate bill comes to a cost of about $838 billion, while the House bill is slightly less at about $819 billion-both significantly less than the first proposal of the bill, which called for over $900 billion. While the bills appropriate funds for many of the same purposes, the amounts differ greatly. The House bill calls for $89 billion in funds for public education and universities, while the Senate bill proposes much less at $39 billion. Both propose tax cuts for lower and middle-income workers and families, but these are much greater under the Senate version of the bill. They both call for the issue of another round of “stimulus checks,” but differ slightly in the income cap for eligibility. Additionally, the Senate bill would allow greater tax provisions for new home buyers, as well as tax breaks for new car buyers.

Both the House and Senate have called for tax cuts for lower and middle-class incomes and allocated funds for health technology and research, unemployment benefits, social welfare, Medicaid, and green energies. They have also both included plans to buy off bad assets from US banks, in an attempt to regenerate credit and loans.

The bill that was originally introduced earlier in January called for spending that sparked much debate in both the House and Senate. $448 million was earmarked for the construction of a Homeland Security headquarters, as well as $248 million to furnish the building. $75 million was marked for programs to urge the public to quit smoking. The bill also included $850 million marked for Amtrak, $100 million for reducing health risks associated with lead-based paint, $650 million to offer the public coupons for the digital television converter, $150 million to the Smithsonian, and $6 billion to make government facilities more environmentally friendly. It is unclear yet how many of these provision will be included in the stimulus bill.

As of Wednesday, Feb. 11, the House and Senate have begun discussion of a compromise between the two versions of the bill. Congress has hastened its efforts to pass the bill, as President Obama has warned of the consequences of inaction. Obama recently addressed the public in Fort Myers, Fl., where he said “the situation we face could not be more serious. In Florida, unemployment rates have surpassed many of those in nation, now at over 10%. There have been other indicators that the economic outlook may not be getting any brighter. On Monday, Feb. 9th, the Dow Jones fell 382 points, and continued in that trend the next day.”

While there is much controversy in Washington about the amount of capital necessary to restart our economy and how that money should be used, the debate over the necessity of the bill and its passage has lessened. A compromised version of the original bill will likely be reached soon. Both proposed sums will have a huge impact on the national deficit, which could soon reach an amount that surpasses last year’s Gross National Product. In any case, America is headed for some long-term debt, at the cost of warding off our current down-spiraling recession.