House Democrats push through stimulus

The House on Friday passed a plan by Democrats to pump $61 billion in government spending into the economy through public works projects, help for the jobless and money for states struggling with their Medicaid bills.

The 264-158 tally was largely symbolic since it came just hours after Senate Republicans blocked a companion measure. The White House promised a veto in any event, saying the legislation would not work and would cost too much.

The bills follow a bipartisan plan enacted this winter that shipped $600-$1,200 tax rebate checks to most individuals and couples and awarded tax breaks to businesses investing in new plants and equipment.

With the economy still sagging, Democrats have long pressed for a follow-up plan that focused on more spending to extend unemployment benefits, boost food stamp payments and build infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, water and sewer projects and school repairs.

They got no interest from President Bush and his GOP allies in Congress.

Democratic leaders haven't seemed to take the idea very seriously, either, unveiling the measures in the waning days of the congressional session despite talking about them for months. And in the Senate, Democrats added a provision to extend a moratorium on the development of oil shale, giving Republicans an additional reason to oppose the bill.

“The truth is that Senate leaders carefully stacked this package so that it would fail,” said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Republicans charged that Democrats were more interested in using the votes against them in the fall campaign.