Congress Passes Stimulus Bill

Congress passed an economic stimulus plan Thursday that will provide $600 to $1,200 in rebates to most taxpayers and $300 checks to low-income people, including disabled veterans and the elderly, to media reports.

In the U.S. Senate, the 81-16 vote capped more than a week of political maneuvering that ended when Democrats dropped their demand that the proposal offer jobless benefits, heating aid for the poor, and tax breaks for certain industries, The Associated Press reports. 

GOP senators reportedly blocked those ideas, but agreed to add the rebates for older people and disabled veterans to a $161 billion measure the U.S. House of Representatives passed last month, the AP reports.

The House approved the revised bill 380-34 less than three hours after the Senate approval, sending it to President George W. Bush for his signature, Bloomberg reports. Bush said Friday he would sign the measure.

The plan would rush rebates—$600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples—to most taxpayers and cut business taxes in hopes of reviving the economy. Individuals making up to $75,000 a year and couples earning up to $150,000 would get rebates, the AP reports.

People who paid no income taxes but earned at least $3,000—including through Social Security or veterans’ disability benefits—would get a $300 rebate.

Once signed into law, rebate checks would be begin arriving in May, the AP reports. The rebates would be based on 2007 tax returns, which are not due until April 15.

The National Retail Federation welcomed the approval of the legislation.

“Expanding the rebate checks to include retirees and disabled veterans is a win-win strategy,” Steve Pfister, NRF senior vice president for Government Relations. “Retirees and veterans not only deserve a check, but are also among those most likely to spend the rebates so that this money gets put to work in the economy right away. The most important thing is that Congress is moving quickly, because stimulus legislation needs to be timely in order to be effective. These are very reasonable changes in the House bill, and we urge the House to agree to them and get the bill onto President Bush’s desk as soon as possible.”

Pfister continued, “We agree with economists who say that boosting consumer spending is the quickest way to get the economy back on track. Consumer spending represents 70 percent of our nation’s economy. Money that consumers spend in retail stores supports every job behind every product on the shelf and has a ripple effect throughout the economy.”

The bill had stalled for more than a week in the Senate. The turnaround came after Democrats fell just one vote short Wednesday of overcoming a GOP filibuster and pressing ahead with their $205 billion plan.

Democrats decided on Thursday against insisting on their package. Instead, they agreed to speed the bipartisan measure, costing about $167 billion, to Bush.

Thirty-three Republicans joined 46 Democrats and the Senate’s two independents to pass the measure. Sixteen Republicans voted against the plan.

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