WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives is expected to approve on Wednesday an $825 billion plan aimed at reviving an economy rapidly falling into what may be the worst recession since World War II, but an early vote signaled President Barack Obama will fall far short of getting the bipartisan consensus he so badly wants.
In an early test vote, no Republicans voted to approve the rules of debate — rules that put strict limits on how many changes GOP lawmakers could try to make in the bill. The rules were adopted by a 243 to 185 tally. Nine Democrats joined 176 Republicans in voting no.
The debate proceeded among sharply partisan lines. Democrats argued the economy urgently needs relief, and said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., the package "is probably smaller than it ought to be, but it's well worth doing."
Republicans, however disputed that notion. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., warned that the spending was "going to cause a severe inflationary problem down the road," while others complained too little money will be pumped into the economy quickly. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the economy should absorb 64 percent of the money by Sept. 30, 2010.
The sharp-elbow tone of the debate wasn't what Obama's been seeking. After meeting with business leaders at the White House Wednesday, he acknowledged that lawmakers have differences.
Obama said, however, "All we can do, those of us in Washington, is help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive, and our economy can grow. And that is exactly what the recovery plan I've proposed is intended to do."
He made the same points on Tuesday, and tried to promote bipartisan cooperation, when he met separately with Republicans from the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Participants praised the comity, but afterward, few GOP lawmakers said they were ready to vote for the Democratic plan.
"I'm not sure how successful he was," said Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa. "Our concern obviously isnt with the president; it's with being locked out of this process."
Democrats don't need Republican support and have accepted virtually none of their major initiatives. Democrats expect to lose at most a handful of their 255 members — 218 are needed for passage.
They'll be considering a bill that includes $550 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax cuts, measures aimed at jolting an economy that's been in a downturn since December 2007.