Washington: The House of Representatives, seizing a rare moment of bipartisanship to respond to the US economy’s slump, has overwhelmingly passed a $146 billion aid package that would speed rebates of $600-1,200 to most taxpayers.
The plan, approved 385-35 after little debate Tuesday, would send at least some rebate to anyone with at least $3,000 in income, with more going to families with children and less going to wealthier taxpayers.
The US is facing economic uncertainty that some fear could lead to the sharpest downturn in decades, brought on by a steady drumbeat of bad news. The market for risky housing mortgages collapsed creating a credit crisis with banks reluctant to lend. Unemployment jumped from 4.7 to 5% and retailers reported a lackluster holiday shopping season.
In an election year Republican and Democratic lawmakers felt they had to act as voters told them the economy had replaced the Iraq war as their major concern.
The plan that passed in the House faced a murky future in the Senate, though, where Democrats and Republicans backed a larger package that adds billions of dollars for senior citizens and the unemployed, and shrinks the rebate to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples. That plan, written by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, would deliver checks even to the richest taxpayers, who are disqualified under the House-passed measure.
Both versions would provide tax breaks to businesses to spur equipment and other purchases.
Baucus, a Democrat, planned a vote in his committee, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he hopes to have it approved by week’s end. Congressional leaders are aiming to send the measure to President George W Bush by 15 February.