Posted recently to the New York Times website:
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: January 15, 2009
WASHINGTON—In two major advances for President-elect Barack Obama’s economic agenda, House Democrats on Thursday unveiled an $825 billion fiscal recovery package, a combination of spending and tax cuts aimed at putting millions of unemployed Americans back to work, and the Senate voted to release the second half of the Treasury’s $700 billion financial bailout fund, sparing the new administration a messy legislative fight.
The recovery package, put together by Congressional Democrats in partnership with Mr. Obama, includes huge increases in federal spending on education, aid to states for Medicaid costs, temporary increases in unemployment benefits and a vast array of public works projects to create jobs.
The Senate is developing its own version of the recovery package, and intense haggling and fierce lobbying are expected over the next few weeks, not just between Democrats and Republicans but also between the new administration and Congress, as lawmakers push to pass the stimulus bill by mid-February.
A vote by the Senate to block the banking bailout money could have upended that aggressive timetable, ensnaring the new president in a contentious veto fight during his first days in office. Instead, 6 Republicans joined 46 Democrats in voting late Thursday afternoon to release the $350 billion in bailout money, giving Mr. Obama powerful ammunition to further stabilize the fragile financial sector.
Because the release of the rest of the bailout money could have been blocked only by a vote of both chambers of Congress, the Senate’s vote assures that the money will be released and means that no action by the House is necessary.
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