Deal struck on economic stimulus package

February 11, 2009

Congressional sources say lawmakers have resolved key differences over school construction spending that had threatened to derail an earlier compromise.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Democratic leadership sources say they have worked out a way around the disagreement between the Senate and House over education funding in the economic stimulus bill.

Details on how they worked it out are not yet available, but a Democratic source said they have come up with an agreement now that everyone – House Democrats and moderate Senate Republicans – can live with.

Senators had slashed direct funding for school construction – a top priority for Democrats – and instead set aside money for governors to use on school modernization and rehabilitation. House Democrats did not believe that would ultimately be targeted enough to school districts in need.

“I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who came together around a hard-fought compromise,” said President Barack Obama in a statement.

Obama said the plan will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs and will provide immediate tax relief to families and businesses.

“I’m grateful to the House Democrats for starting this process, and for members in the House and Senate for moving it along with the urgency that this moment demands,” said President Obama.

The deal comes after a drawn-out debate on Capitol Hill that culminated in a last-minute holdup related to the school construction issue.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that a deal had been struck earlier Wednesday afternoon. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not on hand when Reid said that the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill had been resolved.

Aides to both Pelosi, D-Calif., and Reid, D-Nev., told CNN she had given Reid the green light to make the announcement, but she apparently then heard complaints from some rank-and-file Democrats.

After Reid announced the compromise bill, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, a fellow Democrat, said it could be taken up by the two houses as early as Friday, meeting President Barack Obama’s timetable of having the bill on his desk by Presidents Day, which is Monday.

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Huge stimulus bill passes House

January 28, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday night with spending increases and tax cuts at the heart of the young administration’s plan to revive a badly ailing economy.

The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama’s frequent pleas for bipartisan support.

“This recovery plan will save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years,” the president said in a written statement released moments after the House voted.

The vote sent the bill to the Senate, where debate could begin as early as Monday on a companion measure already taking shape. Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislation ready for Obama’s signature by mid-February.

With unemployment at its highest level in a quarter-century, the banking industry wobbling despite the infusion of staggering sums of bailout money and states struggling with budget crises, Democrats said the legislation was desperately needed.

Republicans said the bill was short on tax cuts and contained too much spending, much of it wasteful, and would fall far short of administration’s predictions of job creation.

On the final vote, the legislation drew the support of all but 11 Democrats, while all Republicans opposed it.

The White House-backed legislation includes an estimated $544 billion in federal spending and $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses. The totals remained in flux nearly until the final vote, due to official re-estimates and a last-minute addition of $3 billion for mass transit.

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Historic bailout bill passes Congress; Bush signs

October 3, 2008

Friday October 3, 6:02 pm ET
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Associated Press Writer

Congress enacts historic bailout legislation for financial industry; Bush quickly signs it

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the economy on the brink of meltdown and elections looming, a reluctant Congress abruptly reversed course and approved a historic $700 billion government bailout of the battered financial industry on Friday. President Bush swiftly signed it.

The 263-171 vote capped two weeks of tumult in Congress and on Wall Street, punctuated by urgent warnings from Bush that the country confronted the gravest economic disaster since the Great Depression if lawmakers failed to act.

“We have acted boldly to help prevent the crisis on Wall Street from becoming a crisis in communities across our country,” Bush said shortly after the plan cleared Congress, although he conceded, “our economy continues to face serious challenges.”

His somber warning was underscored on Wall Street, where enthusiasm over the rescue gave way to worries about obstacles still facing the economy, and the Dow Jones industrials dropped 157 points. The Labor Department said earlier in the day that employers had slashed 159,000 jobs in September, the largest cut in five years.

The historic vote was a striking turnaround from the measure’s spectacular failure earlier in the week, which had triggered a massive stock sell-off and prompted jittery lawmakers — fearing a crushing economic contagion that was spreading to their constituents — to reconsider.

“Let’s not kid ourselves: We’re in the midst of a recession. It’s going to be a rough ride, but it will be a whole lot rougher ride” without the rescue plan, said Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the minority leader, as he prepared to cast his vote for the most sweeping federal intervention in markets in decades.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pledged quick action to get the program up and operating.

The bailout, which gives the government broad authority to buy up toxic mortgage-related investments and other distressed assets from tottering financial institutions, is designed to ease a credit crunch that began on Wall Street but is engulfing businesses around the nation.

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Buffett says economy needs immediate help

October 2, 2008

Thursday October 2, 12:30 pm ET
By Josh Funk, AP Business Writer

Buffett says financial crisis is an ‘economic Pearl Harbor’ that needs immediate counterattack

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said the nation has been hit with an “economic Pearl Harbor,” and the government must respond quickly.

Buffett talked about the nation’s ongoing financial woes in an appearance on the “The Charlie Rose Show” that aired Wednesday night on PBS stations.

“This really is an economic Pearl Harbor,” Buffett said. “That sounds melodramatic, but I’ve never used that phrase before. And this really is one.”

Buffett’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to messages left Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

Buffett said the nation’s economic problems are already starting to be felt by furniture and jewelry stores such as the ones owned by Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRK.A).

The billionaire predicts that the rest of the “Main Street” economy will start to have problems if the government’s financial bailout plan doesn’t pass Congress soon.

“In my adult lifetime, I don’t think I’ve ever seen people as fearful economically as they are now,” the 78-year-old Buffett said.

The fear in the marketplace has allowed Buffett to make several sizable investments over the past month in proven companies that needed cash quickly. And Berkshire, which had $31.2 billion cash on hand at the end of June, was ready to invest because, Buffett says, he always tries to be greedy when others are fearful.

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Senate passes bailout

October 1, 2008

Plan to buy $700B in troubled assets wins OK. Backers hope add-ons will yield more yes-votes in House.

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNNMoney.com senior writer
Last Updated: October 1, 2008: 10:20 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The Senate on Wednesday night passed a sweeping and controversial financial bailout similar in key ways to one rejected by the House just two days earlier.

The measure was passed by a vote of 74 to 25 after more than three hours of floor debate in the Senate. Presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and John McCain, R-Arizona, voted in favor.

Like the bill the House rejected, the core of the Senate bill is the Bush administration’s plan to buy up to $700 billion of troubled assets from financial institutions.

Those assets, mostly mortgage-related, have caused a crisis of confidence in the credit markets. A major aim of the plan is to free up banks to start lending again once their balance sheets are cleared of toxic holdings.

But the Senate legislation also includes a number of new provisions aimed at Main Street.

The changes are intended to attract more votes in the House, in particular from House Republicans, two-thirds of whom voted against the bailout plan.

The House is expected to take up the Senate measure for a vote on Friday, according to aides to Democratic leaders.

The legislation, if passed by the House, would usher in one of the most far-reaching interventions in the economy since the Great Depression.

Advocates say the plan is crucial to government efforts to attack a credit crisis that threatens the economy and would free up banks to lend more. Opponents say it rewards bad decisions by Wall Street, puts taxpayers at risk and fails to address the real economic problems facing Americans.

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