WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Wednesday approved an $800-billion-plus package of spending and tax cuts designed to stimulate the nation’s ailing economy.
With Oklahoma lawmakers voting 4-1 against the legislation, the final tally was 244 to 188.
Not one Republican voted for the package despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to them Tuesday.
Still, the president said he was grateful the House moved the plan forward, citing the 2.6 million jobs lost last year as well as the 55,000 expected to be cut by the nation’s biggest employers.
"We must move swiftly and boldly to put Americans back to work, and that is exactly what this plan begins to do,” Obama said.
Rep. Dan Boren, Oklahoma’s lone Democrat in Congress, was the only member of the state’s delegation to vote for the package.
Boren conceded that decision was difficult, citing the size of the bill, but said the worst economic times since the Great Depression warranted that kind of action.
"I think we will have another bite of the apple,” he said, referring to the changes in the bill already under way in the Senate.
Republican Reps. John Sullivan, Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and Mary Fallin voted against the package.
While supportive of certain parts of the legislation such as infrastructure spending and tax cuts, they questioned whether the massive package actually would stimulate the economy or stimulate it enough to justify its price tag.
"I don’t see that as creating as many jobs as we had hoped,” Sullivan said.
Asked about the wish lists that state and local officials have come up with in hopes they could be funded by the package, Sullivan praised that as a "good exercise” for officials to go through to help the federal government understand what kinds of projects exist.
Lucas also expressed concern the bill would not live up to expectations.
"This looks to me like essentially 14 years of spending priorities and unfunded goals,” Lucas said.
He also questioned the proposal’s price tag and the three million jobs it supposedly will create, which, he said, comes out to about $250,000 a job.
"That’s pretty expensive stimulus,” Lucas said.
Fallin said the bill was more about pork barrel projects and a massive expansion of government programs than economic stimulus or job creation.
"Not everything about today’s legislation is bad. Americans need tax relief, and I appreciate the limited portions of the bill dedicated to providing that relief, however temporary,” Fallin said.
She said, however, the plan put together by Democrats would do little to help the economy recover.
Cole also conceded a federal response is needed for the global recession.
"But this bill busts the federal budget while doing next-to-nothing to truly stimulate our economy,” he said.
With a price tag ranging from $819 billion to $825 billion, the package includes $30 billion for highway construction, $32 billion to transform the nation’s energy grid, $79 billion to help bail out states, $41 billion for local school districts, $500 million for tribal programs and tax relief for most Americans.
The Senate is expected to take up the package as early as next week.
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