Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Obama to sign £553bn rescue package into law

After weeks of negotiation and intense political wrangling, President Barack Obama will sign a near-800 billion dollar stimulus bill into law today.

The 787 billion-dollar (£553 billion) package is seen as crucial by the White House as it attempt to salvage the US economy, with its passing being hailed as a victory for the new president.

But in a disappointment for Mr Obama, the plan has failed to garner cross-party support, with all but a handful of Republicans in Congress giving it their backing.

The signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will take place in Denver, following a tour of a solar panel installation by the president.

The siting is significant in the fact that some 20 billion dollars (£14 billion) included in the stimulus package will go towards creating jobs in the green energy industry.

In all, the White House hopes that the bill will save or create some 3.5 million jobs.

But signing off on the plan is unlikely to end debate over the merits of the package, with eyes now turning to whether the plan will succeed in turning around the US economy.

The bill was eventually sent to the president's desk for signing late on Friday after a final round of voting in Congress.

The Senate approved the bill by 60 to 38, meeting the crucial 60 mark with the support of just three Republicans.

The final vote was held up to allow time for Democratic senator Sherrod Brown to fly back from Ohio, where his mother died earlier in the week.

His was the decisive 60th vote for the bill in the 100-seat Senate.

Earlier, the House of Representatives voted 246 to 183 in favour of the package. But for a second time in the House, not one opposition member backed the plan.

The plan comprises of 281 billion dollars (£195 billion) in tax cuts and more than half a trillion dollars in spending projects.

The president has repeatedly stressed the urgent need for it to be passed, warning that economic crisis could turn into catastrophe.

But his calls for bipartisan support largely fell on deaf ears in Congress.

It leaves the administration open to criticism if the stimulus fails to revive the flatlined US economy.

Republicans maintain that it is too expensive and relies too heavily on spending.

Minority leader in the House John Boehner said before Friday's vote: "This is an act of generational theft that our children and grandchildren will be paying for far into the future."

But Democrats heaped praise on the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "By investing in new jobs, in science and innovation, in energy, in education, we are investing in the American people, which is the best guarantee of the success of our nation."

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