Obama stimulus passes without GOP votes

House Democrats on Wednesday delivered on their promise to President Obama to pass an $819 billion economic stimulus bill, but they had to do so without a single Republican vote.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) herself rose to the chair to call the final vote, which was 244-188.  Eleven Democrats joined every Republican in opposing the bill.

Although Democrats erupted in cheers after final passage, it was somewhat of a bittersweet victory for the majority, which has been championing what it claimed to be the bipartisan nature of the economic recovery bill.

The massive bill – which has been the top priority of both President Obama and congressional Democrats – will have to be reconciled with a companion bill working its way through the Senate that is now nearly $900 billion with the inclusion of a one-year patch for the alternative minimum tax intended to prevent its application to middle-class taxpayers. Democratic leaders are preparing for a bicameral conference to iron out what could be significant differences between the two bills.

The House bill was a mixture of tax cuts and spending proposals that deviated in detail from the president’s initial proposal, and that divided the chamber along party lines.
Still, Democratic leaders trumpeted the $523 billion in spending and the $275 billion in tax cuts in their bill as the best medicine for an ailing economy as they continued to lean on the words of economists who originally helped them arrive at a roughly $800 billion number.

“Today we are passing historic legislation that honors the promises our new president made from the steps of the Capitol,” Pelosi said. “Promises to make the future better for our children and our grandchildren… by passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create and save 3 million jobs by rebuilding America.”

Republicans reiterated throughout the day that they were outraged over both the ultimate substance of the bill and how it was put together.

But that outrage was outweighed by the surprise and satisfaction that their conference remained united.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said that losing just a few Republicans would still have been a major victory for his party, which just suffered its second consecutive drubbing at the polls in November.

Having the entire conference stick together, Conaway said, was even better than he imagined.

Newly minted House Minority Whip Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorTrump taps pollster to push back on surveys showing Biden with double-digit lead Bottom Line The Democrats' strategy conundrum: a 'movement' or a coalition? MORE (R-Va.), who was responsible for rounding up his party’s votes, was ecstatic, an aide said.
The 11 Democrats who bucked their leaders and the new president were Reps. Allen Boyd (Fla.), Bobby Bright (Ala.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Parker Griffith (Ala.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Frank Kratovil (Md.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Heath Shuler (N.C.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.).
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) was the only member who did not vote.
Democrats broke the bill up into three parts and sent it to three committees to be amended. A large number of Republican amendments were considered, but most were rejected by the majority.

Even after multiple Republican meetings with Obama that were designed to allay GOP concerns about the substance and the process, no major changes to the bill were made, and no Republican support was won.

That was also a source of frustration for many Democrats, including some who still voted for the package.

“I’m concerned that bad process leads to a bad product,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who said he cast a “reluctant yes” vote.

“I’m willing to give the president and the Senate the chance to make this a better bill,” he added, reflecting a sentiment shared by both some Democrats and nearly all Republicans.

Despite what some described as “significant” Democratic trepidation, a number of Democrats said that many in the caucus were very hesitant to deliver any kind of blow to their president during his second week in office.

For the 11 Democrats, though – mainly a mix of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats and newly elected Freshmen – it was just as important to send a message to their leaders that they have more work to do.

“His bill was fine,” Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), a veteran Blue Dog said, referring to Obama. “Congress messed it up.”

“It’s not going to be passed for two weeks,” Cooper added. “Can’t we spend a little more time crafting a better package?”

But Democrats are far from united in their objections to the bill. Where Cooper sees to much unnecessary spending, DeFazio sees too much emphasis on tax cuts. The Senate bill is already shaping up to have more tax relief than the House bill.

Republicans offered an alternative that they spent the day claiming would – primarily through a greater focus on tax cuts – create twice as many jobs as the Democratic bill at half its cost, according to a GOP study.

Republican Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Bottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future MORE (R-Ohio) criticized the “slow moving and wasteful spending” in the Democratic bill.

“We have to act, and we have to help our ailing economy,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Bottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future MORE said. “The question is: How do we do it best? And we believe this fast-acting tax relief is the way to get it done.”

But Republicans had far less than unified support for their own alternative, which lost on a 170-266 vote, with two Democrats and nine Republicans voting against their party leaders.

Mike Soraghan contributed to this story.

 This story was updated at 8:22 p.m.