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US stimulus bill likely to win approval

UNITED States Presdient Barack Obama's prized economic stimulus legislation looks set to pass Congress after compromises were made but nevertheless he continued his campaign to convince the Americans his US$789 billion plan will work.

Law makers reached a deal on the stimulus bill on Wednesday after 24 intense hours of negotiations, cutting the cost from more than US$800 billion. It now goes back to both chambers of Congress.

The agreement was a huge victory for Obama, who had been pushing for approval of a stimulus package even before taking office on January 20. But Obama failed to win the Republican support he courted as part of his campaign pledge to end partisan gridlock.

Republicans complained that the bill included wasteful spending and that greater tax cuts would be more effective in lifting the US out of its biggest economic crisis in 80 years.

Obama is not expected to pick up more Republican support than he had in earlier votes, when only three Republican senators and no Republican House members backed it.

The president is headed yesterday to Peoria, Illinois, to promote the plan. Earlier this week he held town hall rallies in Florida and Indiana to build public support for the stimulus.

Obama used Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc as an example of how his stimulus plan can help produce jobs. During a visit in Virginia on Wednesday, Obama said the heavy equipment manufacturer plans to rehire some of its laid-off workers if Congress approves a sweeping stimulus bill. The company hasn't commented on that assertion.

Obama said the compromised plan would still "save or create more than 3.5 million jobs and get our economy back on track."

But the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boenher, said "it appears that Democrats have made a bad bill worse by reducing the tax relief for working families in order to pay for more wasteful government spending."

The stimulus plan includes spending on infrastructure projects, expanded unemployment benefits, aid for small businesses and billions for states that face the prospect of making deep cuts in education and other programs. Obama's much-touted tax break for middle and working-class Americans survived but was scaled back.

The president also won money for two other administration priorities - information technology in health care, and "green jobs" to make buildings more energy-efficientand reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil.

Obama's other plan to help the economy, the bank bailout, has not been well received, with US stocks plummeting shortly after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced it.

The plan could send as much as US$2 trillion in public and private funding coursing through the banking system and the broader economy.

However, there were doubts about whether the private sector would sign on and criticism that the proposal was short on details.


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