House Vote On Stimulus Follows Partisan Lines
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. The House of Representatives has passed its version of President Obama's economic stimulus bill. The more than $800 billion measure is the first major action of a government now controlled by Democrats. It was a test of bipartisanship in Washington and on that score it failed. No Republicans voted for the bill. The vote was 244 to 188. NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.
ANDREA SEABROOK: It was just one week and one day ago, the freshly minted president looked out over a crowd that stretched from the Capitol lawn beyond the White House lawn and outlined his blueprint for economic recovery. Today it came to the House floor. Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): Today, we are passing historic legislation that honors the promises our new president made from the steps of the Capitol, promises to make the future better for our children and our grandchildren.
SEABROOK: At first glance, the debate seemed to have the kind of bipartisan tone President Obama called for. After all, the numbers don't lie - millions of cut jobs and layoffs, plummeting home values, a stock market wallowing in bad earnings reports. The government needs to act, said California Republican David Dreier.
Representative DAVID DREIER (Republican, California): And there is total agreement on that, total agreement on that. We all know, both sides of the aisle, that in our districts, whether it's Georgia, New York, California, our constituents are hurting. We're all feeling the pain of this economic downturn. The question is what action will we take?
SEABROOK: And with that, bye-bye bipartisanship. The two parties have really different ideas about how to jumpstart the economy and each has its own roster of experts to back them up. This bill pumps hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastructure, education, health care, and local governments. It cuts taxes for most working Americans and for many businesses, too. Democrats say it will create jobs, millions of them over the next year and a half. And that, said Connecticut Democrat John Larson, will mean some relief for Americans who are suffering.
Representative JOHN LARSON (Democrat, Connecticut): We face, as they do, here in this chamber, this day, at this moment, a rendezvous with reality, the crushing reality of what the last eight years has brought to our American citizens.
SEABROOK: Republicans? They say this bill spends way too much and doesn't cut taxes enough. And furthermore, said California's Jerry Lewis, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, his party was locked out of all negotiations over the bill.
Representative JERRY LEWIS (Republican, California): Do not for one minute believe that this bill reflects the input of House Republicans or even many House Democrats.
SEABROOK: Lewis said as far as he could tell, the legislation was written in Speaker Pelosi's office. Democrats say, no, it wasn't.
Representative DAVID OBEY (Democrat, Wisconsin; Chairman, Appropriations Committee): The minority continually spouts the myth that the minority was not allowed to be involved in the development of this legislation.
SEABROOK: That's David Obey, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He said minority Republicans were given plenty of opportunities to affect the bill, but he said they preferred to play the victim.
Representative OBEY: So if someone says, I'm sorry I was shut out, but it is they who turned the key in the lock that kept them on the outside, that certainly isn't our fault.
SEABROOK: So much for bipartisanship. In the end, though, there is still room for cooperation. Maybe not between scrappy House leaders, but as this bill moves on to the Senate, Republicans are working directly with the Obama administration to put their two cents in, or take them out as the case may be. And Speaker Pelosi said it's difficult to turn the giant ship of state - difficult, but not impossible.
Representative PELOSI: We are moving the ship of state in a new direction in favor of the many, not the few. With this vote today, we are taking America in a new direction.
SEABROOK: The bill now goes to the Senate where more change is certain. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.