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Obama wins over Congress, set to sign stimulus package

US President Barack Obama is expected to sign the US$787 billion stimulus bill tomorrow that seeks to combat the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Obama yesterday savored his first major victory in Congress, the day after the bill was passed with law makers largely voting along party lines.

The Senate approved the measure 60-38 with three Republican moderates providing crucial support.

Hours earlier, the House vote was 246-183, with all Republicans opposed to the package of tax cuts and federal spending that Obama has made the centerpiece of his plan for economic recovery.

The president could sign the bill as early as next week, less than a month after taking office. He described the bill's passage as a "major milestone on our road to recovery."

Speaking in his weekly radio and Internet address yesterday, Obama said, "I will sign this legislation into law shortly, and we'll begin making the immediate investments necessary to put people back to work doing the work America needs done."

At the same time, he cautioned, "The problems that led us into this crisis are deep and widespread, and our response must be equal to the task."

Despite Obama's early bipartisan goals, Republican opposition was nearly unanimous to the US$787 billion package of tax cuts and federal spending on which Obama has staked his presidency.

Conservatives in both houses have been relentless critics, arguing the plan is filled with wasteful spending and that greater tax cuts would be more effective in creating jobs.

Told that no House Republican backed the measure Friday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reacted by citing another number: "3.5 million jobs that we look forward to saving or creating."

Obama gave a thumbs-up sign upon hearing of the package's passage in the House. He hailed the massive bill and the "spirited debate" that accompanied it, but warned that "it's only the beginning of what we must do to turn our economy around."

He said those things include implementing the separate, newly reconfigured US$700 billion financial industry bailout program, stemming home foreclosures, reforming financial sector regulations and crafting what he called a "responsible" federal budget.

The compromise stimulus bill includes spending on infrastructure projects, expanded unemployment benefits, aid for small businesses and billions to help strapped states. The Senate 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.


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