Stimulus Bill Grows to $887 Billion as It Moves Through Senate Committees

The Senate Finance Committee added more tax relief before approving the massive stimulus measure.

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As those in the House geared up yesterday to begin debate on the $825 billion stimulus bill, their compatriots on the Senate side passed the bill through two key committees—and added another $70 billion in tax relief, swelling the package to more than $887 billion.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $365.6 billion in spending portions of the bill yesterday, while the Senate Finance Committee passed $522 billion in tax cuts, incentives, and investments.

The bill passed through Appropriations by a vote of 21 to 9, despite Republican complaints that the bill was being hustled too quickly through Congress. But the bill wasn't amended in committee, with Republicans instead expected to propose amendments when the bill comes before the full Senate.

The biggest winner in the appropriations portion of the marked-up bill is infrastructure, with nearly $137 billion slated for improvements. That sum includes $27 billion for highways, $19.5 billion for schools, $9 billion to expand broadband Internet access, and $8.4 billion for mass transit.

Another $125 billion would go toward education, including $13.9 billion to increase the Pell Grant maximum award. Energy initiatives get $49 billion. Programs that protect those hit hardest by the financial crisis, including nutrition programs, child care, and social services block grants, make up $25 billion of the package. Meanwhile, $16 billion goes to health spending.

On the same day, the Senate Finance Committee passed its portions of the package by 14 to 9. That included one $69.8 billion amendment to the bill, a measure designed to protect more than 30 million households, mainly with incomes between $100,000 and $500,000, from the alternative minimum tax this year. Other amendments included tax credits for broadband in rural areas and more tax credits for investment in renewable energy.

The bill will be taken up on the floor of the Senate for a vote next week. The House began debating on its own version of the stimulus bill today, with a vote expected today or tomorrow.