GOP votes unswayed by Obama lobbying on stimulus bill

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives is expected to approve Wednesday an $825 billion plan aimed at reviving an economy that's rapidly falling into the worst recession since World War II, but President Barack Obama is likely to fall short of getting the strong bipartisan consensus he so badly wants.

Obama made a visit Tuesday to Capitol Hill, meeting separately with Republicans from the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Participants praised the comity, but afterward, few GOP lawmakers said they were ready to vote for the Democratic plan.

"I'm not sure how successful he was," said Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa. "Our concern obviously isn't with the president; it's with being locked out of this process."

Democrats don't need Republican support and have accepted virtually none of their major initiatives. Democrats expect to lose at most a handful of their 255 members — 218 are needed for passage.

They'll be considering a bill that includes $550 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax cuts, measures aimed at jolting an economy that’s been in a downturn since December 2007.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported Tuesday that without a stimulus, the shortfall in the nation’s output relative to its potential would be the largest — and longest — since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

CBO estimated that the current recession will last until the second half of this year, which would make it the longest since World War II. The 1973-75 and 1981-82 downturns each lasted 16 months.

The House bill includes Obama’s “Making Work Pay” credit, providing rebates of $500 in payroll taxes for most taxpayers. Also included are breaks for college tuition, renewable energy and school construction.

In the spending area, the bill would create a $79 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. That includes $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities; $15 billion for other education aid; and $25 billion to “prevent layoffs in high priority areas such as public safety and other general services.”

The next stop will be the Senate, where the Finance and Appropriations Committees on Tuesday wrote their own versions of the stimulus bill. Appropriations approved by 21 to 9 the $366 billion spending portion of the bill, and four Republicans joined Democrats in voting yes.

The Finance panel added a provision that would give more than 20 million taxpayers a break from paying an alternative minimum tax this year. That would add about $70 billion to the stimulus package’s cost.

The full Senate plans to debate and vote on the bill next week, and because its rules are different from the House’s, Republicans will be able to offer dozens of amendments.

Thus, the Senate legislation could look quite different from the House version.

Negotiators from both houses will work out the differences, with final votes likely the week of Feb. 9.

(Lesley Clark and Barbara Barrett contributed to this article.)


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