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Senate expected to approve later Friday

RISMEDIA, February 16, 2009-(MCT)-The House of Representatives Friday voted 246 to 183, almost entirely along party lines, to jolt the nation’s struggling economy with a $787.2 billion stimulus package designed to provide quick tax relief and create or save 3.5 million jobs.

Senate passage was expected later Friday, and President Barack Obama is likely to sign it early next week. Once he does, some of the money should start flowing quickly. The bill promises quick job creation by spending $27.5 billion to modernize roads and bridges, $16.4 billion for investments in high-speed rail and transit and $53.6 billion to help states pay education expenses.

And it includes up to 33 weeks of additional jobless benefits in high-unemployment states as well an extra $25 a week, funds to help the poor and those with disabilities with health care costs, and payments of $250 to retirees, Supplemental Security Income recipients and veterans who get pensions or disability payments.

The mood among supporters was a combination of relief, euphoria – and confusion. No Republicans voted for the bill – seven Democrats were opposed – and GOP critics were bitter, charging the bill was dotted with favors to special interests that had no business in emergency legislation and offered too few tax cuts.

The GOP was critical of one of the biggest, Obama’s signature “Making Work Pay” tax cut, which provides effective rebates of $400 per taxpayer to most taxpayers. The credit, estimated to cost $116.2 billion, should mean only $13 a week this year, assuming the plan begins in June, and $8 a week next year.

Republicans objected to how congressional negotiators worked largely behind closed doors to cobble the bill together quickly this week- despite Obama’s promises of transparency. And when copies of the 1,073 page, 8-inch-thick bill became available a few hours before the votes, they had inked notes scribbling changes in the margins.

© 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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