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Bush Set to Sign $168B Economic Stimulus Bill

The bill, which includes tax rebates for most Americans and growth incentives for businesses, adds Senate-backed tax rebates for disabled veterans and the elderly. Those measures were not included in a previous version passed by the House and supported by the president.

“We are in a period of economic uncertainty and we’ve acted again,” Mr. Bush said, according to Reuters. “This bill reflects our principles. It is robust, it is pro-growth, it stimulates business investment and it puts money into the hands of American consumers.”

Under the revised plan, more than 130 million people will get rebate checks from the government in amounts from $300 to $1,200. The measure includes $600 tax rebates for individuals earning up to $75,000 and $1,200 for couples with combined incomes up to $150,000, as well as another $300 per child.

Taxpayers with higher incomes will see reduced benefits, while non-filing individuals who earn at least $3,000 will receive checks for $300.

The bill also increases the size of mortgage loans that can be purchased by government-chartered mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the rebates — which could be in the hands taxpayers by May — “a gift to the middle class and those who aspire to it in our country.”

To get the bill passed, Senate Democrats conceded on proposals for expanded benefits to the unemployed, food stamps and heating aid to the poor and tax incentives for the housing and energy industries, after falling just one vote short of getting their more expansive version passed, the AP reported. They also agreed to add language to ensure illegal immigrants would be exempt from rebates.

“I could have played around with this and tried to pick up that 60th vote, but I made a commitment to get this bill done before [Feb. 15], and we did that,” Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the AP.

Despite the eventual compromise, the GOP block of the Democratic-sponsored measures could end up being used as a political weapon in this election year.

“If today [Republicans] are squirming because they voted ‘no,’ that’s what democracy is all about,” said New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the head of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. “The political chips will fall where they may.”

Forty-six Democrats, 33 Republicans and two independents voted in favor of the compromised bill, which also doubles the amount of expenses that businesses are allowed to write-off in taxes.

Sixteen Senate Republicans voted against the bill, some voicing concerns about the burden it would pose to the national deficit.

“We have to remember that every dollar being spent on the stimulus package is being borrowed from our children. And our children’s children,” Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., told the AP.

The House passed the stimulus bill by a decisive 380-34 vote.

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