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House passes stimulus bill; SC may get $3.2 billion

WASHINGTON - The House passed an $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday evening by a 244-188 margin without a single Republican lawmaker voting for the landmark measure to jolt the economy and create new jobs.

The economic-recovery legislation, which could bring South Carolina at least $3.2 billion, now moves to the Senate, where it faces significant hurdles.

In their unanimous rejection of the stimulus plan, House Republicans ignored President Barack Obama's appeal for bipartisan support and rejected the first major legislative initiative of his weeklong tenure.

Obama, after meeting with business leaders, gave no hint of dismay over the Republican rebellion. He thanked the House for approving the measure and invited congressional leaders from both parties for cocktails at the White House.

"It will double our capacity to generate renewable energy," Obama said of the stimulus bill. "It will lower the cost of health care by billions and improve its quality. It will modernize thousands of classrooms and send more kids to college. And it will put billions of dollars in immediate tax relief into the pockets of working families."

As part of "unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my administration accountable," Obama said his aides had set up a new Web site - www.recovery.gov - where "every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars."

The measure would provide $550 billion in new federal spending and $275 billion in tax cuts, most of them aimed at low-income and middle-class families.

A new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office put its net price tag at $816 billion, and the House added $3 billion in more public transit funds, bringing the total to $819.

Eleven Democrats, most of them members of the "Blue Dog" faction of fiscal conservatives, also voted against the measure to fund road repairs, school construction, alternative energy investment, public housing, mass transit and other needs.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of Columbia and House Budget Committee chairman John Spratt voted for the stimulus. Reps. Joe Wilson, Henry Brown, Gresham Barrett and Bob Inglis joined 173 other Republican lawmakers in opposing it.

In floor debate before the vote, Clyburn said a record 210,000 South Carolinians have lost their jobs, producing a 9.5 percent unemployment rate, the nation's third-highest.

"Our package is balanced," Clyburn said, holding up a sheaf of letters from corporate CEOs and business groups that he said back the bill. "It has middle-class tax cuts. It has business tax cuts. It has investments in our physical infrastructure. It is the right mix of spending and tax breaks to get America working again."

Barrett, of Westminister, helped lead the Republican revolt against the measure.

"Without a doubt, the American people are suffering," Barrett told his colleagues. "Unfortunately, rather than focusing on job-creating measures like infrastructure improvement and tax cuts, the Democrats have put forth legislation with billions in unwarranted and unrelated spending."

In Columbia, SC Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler chided Barrett and the state's three other House Republicans for having voted against the measure.

"These representatives need to consider the harm that widespread unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures are causing to thousands of families across South Carolina," Fowler said. "Our citizens are among the hardest-working in the nation, and deserve all the help they can get."

The stimulus bill provides about $33 billion for building and repairing roads and bridges, with South Carolina slated to get almost $480 million.

The state would receive more than $291 million to construct and renovate K-12 schools, colleges and universities as part of a $20 billion-plus national investment.

The recovery plan would save or create 37,200 jobs in South Carolina, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Economy.com and a former adviser to Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

The House approved an amendment by Rep. Larry Kissell, a first-term North Carolina Democrat, to require the Transportation Security Administration to buy only uniforms made by, or of materials from, American textile companies.

Rep. Howard Coble, a Greensboro, N.C., Republican, said the textile industry has shed 60,000 jobs in the last year.

"My mama was a textile worker who sewed pockets into overalls at the old Blue Bell plant in Greensboro," Coble said. "So I know the significance of a textile check."

Wilson, of Lexington, didn't speak on the House floor, but he released a statement after the vote, mocking the stimulus bill as the "Democrat Spending Plan" in the headline.

Wilson accused Democrats of pursuing "the same, old, tired big-spending agenda."

If the Senate also passes its significantly different stimulus measure, that bill would be reconciled with the House legislation by a conference committee of members from both chambers.

The House and the Senate would then vote on the package again. Obama has urged Congress to send him a measure to sign into law by mid-February.

David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, ridiculed Republicans for opposing the House bill. He compared them to President Herbert Hoover, the Republican who was in the White House during the first 3 ½ years of the Great Depression.

"What year is this?" Obey asked on the House floor. "I didn't think it was 1933. I thought it was 2009. All I would say is -- they don't look like Herbert Hoover, but there are an awful lot of people in this chamber who, I guess, think like Herbert Hoover."

Stimulus windfall

The stimulus bill passed by the House would bring South Carolina $3.2 billion in additional federal funds over the next decade, with more than three-quarters of it arriving by Sept. 30, 2011:

State budget deficit offset/fiscal stabilization: $ 905.09 million Highways/Bridges construction/repair: $479.86 million Food Stamps $389.2 million Pell Grants (college) $349.59 million School construction/modernization (K-12) $208.72 million Education/Disabled students $200.79 million Poor school districts $191.31 million College/University construction/modernization $82.7 million Employment services/Job training $65.98 million Social Security for elderly/disabled $60.3 million Water-treatment plants/sewers/pipelines $59.47 million Law-enforcement grants $57.15 million Child-care and development grants $36.32 million Public-transit systems $34.19 million Homeless shelters $15.9 million Community services block grant $15.36 million Education technology grants $13.82 million Head Start program $9.92 million Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program $6.64 million Preventative health/health services grant $3.83 million Elderly nutrition services $3.11 million

South Carolinians would get an estimated $3.1 billion in tax cuts over the next decade, including $244 million for poorer South Carolinians through expanded tax credits for children. -- Sources: House Appropriations Committee; Congressional Budget Office

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