$825 Billion Stimulus Bill Clears First Hurdle in the House

The House Appropriations Committee approved the spending measures included in the stimulus plan.

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President Obama's $825 billion stimulus package has begun making its way through the labyrinth of House committees, overcoming a key hurdle last night as it was passed by the House Appropriations Committee.

The Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for examining the $358 billion swath of the package that goes toward spending measures, passed the marked-up American Recovery and Reinvestment bill by a vote of 35 to 22. The hearing also gave Republicans their first formal chance to air their concerns about the stimulus bill, which they worry is too large and being pushed through with too much haste.

Today, House committees on Ways and Means and on Energy and Commerce are considering their own portions of the bill.

At yesterday's hearing, Republicans criticized what they saw as Democrats' emphasis on speed over caution in passing the bill. Many said they wanted to have hearings at the subcommittee level to explore the bill more thoroughly.

Those calls, however, were rejected by Democrats, who have been told by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they must pass the bill by mid-February because of the urgency of the economic crisis. "Let's put this thing together. We don't have a lot of time," said Democratic Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick. "Children are hungry."

Republicans proposed an amendment to remove $122 billion of the spending proposals, particularly from new programs. Rep. Todd Tiahrt suggested that the money could go toward tax cuts instead. The proposal failed.

At the end of the day, the bill passed with only a handful of amendments. Those included a mandate that the bill's construction and repair projects use American-produced iron and steel, unless found to be "prohibitively expensive," as well as a requirement that contractors pay workers at least as much as the local, prevailing wage.

And in a dig at scandal-scarred Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, another amendment prohibited the governor from allocating any of the funds the package directs to Illinois.

Pelosi has announced that the bill will be considered on the House floor next week for a January 28 vote. Meanwhile, House Republicans are hoping that President Obama—whom they plan to meet with on Friday, Pelosi said today—will be more amenable to their suggestions than their peers in the House.