CAPITOL HILL - Less than a month in office, President Barack Obama has scored a key legislative win. A $787 billion stimulus bill has cleared Congress.
It's hoped the massive package will help stave off the effects of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
It cleared the Senate 60-to-38.
Friday night's winning vote came just before 11 p.m. when Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown voted "aye." The vote had been held open so that Brown could attend his mother's memorial in Ohio. Three Republican moderates sided with Democrats in the Senate. But earlier in the House, Republican opposition was unanimous.
Supporters say the legislation could save or create 3.5 million jobs. But Republicans complain the legislation is weighed down with spending.
The legislation is among the costliest ever considered in Congress. It provides billions of dollars to aid victims of the recession through such things as unemployment benefits, food stamps, medical care and job retraining. It also sends aid to the states, and includes tax cuts, which Democrats say will help 95 percent of all Americans.
The measure will be signed into law in a few days by the president, who is spending the holiday weekend back in Chicago.
The 1,071 page, 8-inch-thick measure that combines $281 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses with more than a half-trillion dollars in government spending. The money would go for infrastructure, health care and help for cash-starved state governments, among scores of programs. Seniors would get a $250 bonus Social Security check.
Told that no Republican backed the measure, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reacted by citing another number: "3.5 million jobs that we look forward to saving or creating."
Republicans said the package won't work because it has too little in tax cuts and spreads too much money around to everyday projects like computer upgrades for federal agencies.
"This legislation falls woefully short," said House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio. "With a price tag of more than $1 trillion when you factor in interest, it costs every family almost $10,000 in added debt. This is an act of generational theft that our children and grandchildren will be paying for far into the future."
The final $787 billion measure has been pared back from versions previously debated in order to attract support from three Senate GOP moderates - Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Their help was essential to meeting a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. The bill originally passed the Senate by a 61-37 tally, but Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., suffering from brain cancer, did not vote Friday night.
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who withdrew his nomination to be Obama's Commerce secretary, said he would vote against the bill.