Sat, Jan 26, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Congress, White House forge deal to boost US economy


With unprecedented speed and cooperation, Congress and the White House forged a deal to inject around US$150 billion into the US economy in a move to rejuvenate it and ease turmoil that the US' problems spawned in the world's markets.

Few developments were expected yesterday as lawmakers digested Thursday's announcement of an agreement between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican leader John Boehner and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson that is intended to stave off the first recession since 2001.

The Senate very often wins its battles with the House. But now, with the power of the administration of US President George W. Bush behind them, House leaders are optimistic that their simply drawn measure would prevent the Senate from making significant changes such as extending unemployment benefits.

The US economic problems stemmed from a collapse of housing prices, escalating oil prices and tight credit related to the housing disaster. The domestic and foreign turmoil that followed made the economy replace the war in Iraq as a chief worry of US voters as the presidential nomination campaign heats up.

As the possibility of economic recession became more plausible, lawmakers eagerly jumped at a chance to ward off the financial collapse threatened during an election year.

The package passed on Thursday features tax rebates of US$600 to US$1,200 to most tax filers within six months in the hope they will spend the money quickly and jolt the ailing economy to life. Businesses would get US$50 billion in incentives to invest in new plants and equipment.

"This package will lead to higher consumer spending and increased business investment," Bush said in hailing the agreement on Thursday.

The bill will go straight to the House floor next week and on to the Senate, where some Democrats hope to add elements such as extending unemployment benefits.

Indeed, many Democrats, such as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, and Senator Edward Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, were deeply unhappy that Pelosi agreed to jettison that proposal in late-stage talks, along with plans to increase food stamp payments.

"I do not understand, and cannot accept, the resistance of President Bush and Republican leaders to including an extension of unemployment benefits for those who are without work through no fault of their own," Rangel said.

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