Washington. (EFE). – The Congress of the United States today approved a plan of stimulus of 787,000 million dollars, after four weeks of partisan struggles on how to breathe life into the economy, in what supposes the greater intervention of the Government since the Second World War .
The measure, one of the highest priorities of the White House, will be sent to the president, Barack Obama, for its promulgation, possibly next Monday.
The Senate approved the measure with 60 votes in favor and 38 against, after a vote that extended more than five hours to give time to Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown to return to Washington to cast his vote and then return to Ohio to the wake and funeral of his mother.
Hours before, the House of Representatives approved it with 246 votes in favor and 183 votes against, including seven from Democrats. No Republican voted in favor.
A total of 55 Democrats voted in favor of the plan, plus two independents. They needed a minimum of 60 votes to prevent any delaying maneuver by the opposition.
Thus, the decisive vote was made by Brown. Of the 41 Republicans in the Upper House, only 3 voted in favor. The 1,071-page “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” provides for the creation of 3.5 million jobs, a strong infusion of funds for infrastructure, social programs and state governments, and tax cuts for individuals and businesses.
During the debate, Senator Charles Schumer and other Democrats insisted that the plan is the necessary dose before a crisis that has put the economy in intensive care: 3.6 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December. 2007
Foreclosures, the freezing of credits and a drop in consumption augur more problems for the economy.
But Republican Senator John McCain and most of his coreligionists retorted that the plan contains “excessive” public spending, mortgaging future generations and does not create jobs in the short term.
Speaking from the same script, they insisted that, including interest, the cost of the plan will amount to 1.1 trillion dollars, and will increase the deficit and the national debt.
They also complained that they were excluded from the bicameral session to prepare the final text of the plan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that, three weeks after Obama’s inauguration, “Congress is acting quickly and boldly to fulfill its promise of new jobs, new hope, and a new direction for the American people. ”
Among other things, the plan extends the period of subsidies for the unemployed from 26 to 46 weeks, although it increases it to 59 in states with high unemployment rates.
It also foresees tax cuts of $ 400 for individuals and up to $ 800 for couples until 2010, based on their salaries.
Authorizes funds for state governments, most of which face budget deficits. California, with a deficit of about 41,000 million dollars, will receive 26,000 million, and much of these funds will go to education and medical services programs in the next 18 months.
Those who buy a house for the first time this year may receive a tax credit of $ 8,000, 500 more than the current law says, and college students will have a credit of up to $ 2,500 for their tuition and other educational expenses such as the purchase of books and computers.
The measure has left a bad taste in the mouth for most Republicans who call it ineffective. “(The plan) is a huge lie, it’s a scam, because it’s not going to create the jobs that they promise and it’s going to aggravate the economy because most of the funds are not going to have an immediate effect. what we want is for them to do something responsible, “said Republican Representative Mario Díaz Balart of Florida.
His colleague Dave Camp said that the Republican alternative “would have created twice as many jobs at half the current cost,” and that this measure is “failed legislation that reflects the priorities of some Democrats instead of those of the entire country.”
Faced with political pressures inside and outside the United States, the plan diluted the “Buy American” clause, which, except in some cases, requires the use of iron, steel and US manufactured products in infrastructure works financed by the plan.
According to the text, this will be applied “in a manner consistent with the obligations of the United States under international agreements,” so that foreign products may be used.
Most experts predict that the package of measures will take effect and, although it will not stop the job drain immediately, it will begin to spur economic growth by the end of 2009.
Obama describes the approval of the plan as “real and tangible” achievement
US President Barack Obama today wanted to praise Congress for having approved the economic stimulus plan, a step he called a “real and tangible achievement” for the American people.
In his traditional Saturday radio message, Obama said that “this is a historic date on our road to recovery.” “After an energetic debate full of fruitful disagreements, we have produced a real and tangible achievement in favor of the American people,” the president said.
Obama promised to promulgate “soon” this law and begin to immediately make the necessary investments for Americans to return to work.
Obama also addressed skeptics of the plan, stating that he is aware that “there are those who fear that we will not be able to effectively implement a plan of these dimensions and scope.” Therefore, he said, the goal of his Government is to spend the money of the new plan with an “unprecedented” level of transparency.
Amid the joy of the approval of the plan, Obama also warned that “this historic step will not be the last we have to give to overcome the crisis, but rather the first.”
Despite the approval of the plan, Obama warned that the recovery “will take time and effort,” but, he said, “working together, we will transform this crisis into opportunities and, when we get out of this painful present, we will find a better future.”