President Barack Obama's expansive and expensive plan to jump-start the economy is all but certain to clear its first hurdle when the Democratic-controlled House votes on a $825 billion version that melds new spending and tax cuts.
Republican support, however, is in doubt when voting takes place Wednesday.
With Democrats enjoying a comfortable majority and expected to fall in line behind Obama, they don't need help from GOP lawmakers to win House passage of his top priority of economic recovery. But Obama wants Republican support to illustrate his promise of a new style of politics that rejects partisan gridlock.
Despite his desire for partisan backing, the House was moving the bill toward a passage vote that was expected to be largely along party lines.
Senate committees were working on a separate version of the measure that enjoyed only slightly more support from Republicans. Congressional leaders have promised Obama they would send him the measure, which could be the single largest bill ever to go through Congress, by mid-February.
In the hours ahead of the House vote, Obama was to make his case for swift passage after meeting at the White House with a group of business CEOs to discuss the plan — just as debate on the measure is in full swing up Pennsylvania Avenue.
The president's first days in office have been dominated by his efforts to drum up bipartisan support for the sweeping plan to jerk the country out of the year-old recession that he inherited from former President George W. Bush. The increasingly troublesome economy — and the federal government's response to it — is the first major test of Obama's presidency; how he handles the volatile situation, and the effect of his stimulus package on the economy, could well set the tone for his first year in office, if not his entire term.
He is casting the measure as the first step toward turning around the moribund economy while laying the foundation for long-term objectives, like developing alternative energy sources and rebuilding the country's highways.
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