WASHINGTON — Congress was set to hand President Obama a victory on his signature economic stimulus plan Friday night.
The Senate was poised to pass the legislation by the filibuster-proof, 60-vote threshold, as it awaited Sen. Sherrod Brown (D. Ohio) to return later in the evening to cast the decisive tally. Brown was flying back from his home state after attending his mother’s funeral.
The House passed the $787.2 billion stimulus package by a vote of 246 to 183 earlier in the day without a single Republican vote.
A cornerstone of Obama’s agenda, the measure is the byproduct of contentious negotiations between a group of three moderate Republicans in the Senate, Democratic leaders in both chambers and the White House.
Congressional passage of the economic package comes at a time of massive layoffs, including thousands of job cuts at Saks Inc., Target Corp., Macy’s Inc., Liz Claiborne Inc. and The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., to name just a few of the companies that have suffered from the recession and the nosedive in consumer spending.
Obama has pledged the stimulus plan will create 3.5 million jobs by pumping funds into new programs to repair the nation’s aging roads, bridges and highways, as well as alternative energy programs.
“The goal at the heart of this plan is to create jobs,” Obama told members of the Business Council earlier Friday. “Not just any jobs, but jobs doing the work America needs done: repairing our infrastructure, modernizing our schools and hospitals and promoting the clean alternative energy sources that will help us finally declare independence from foreign oil.”
Business tax breaks in the final bill included: extending a 50 percent bonus depreciation for two years, an extension of small business expensing and expansion of the work opportunity tax credit for unemployed and troubled youth and recently discharged veterans.
A key business tax break allowing businesses an extension of net operating losses to five years from the current two years was changed in the final bill. It now only provides the tax incentive to small companies with gross receipts of $15 million or less, which upset some retail groups.
Obama’s top priority — tax cuts for the lower and middle class — were also trimmed. Tax breaks were cut from $500 per individual to $400 per individual and from $1,000 per family to $800 per family in the final bill.