WASHINGTON President Barack Obama scored his first major legislative victory on Wednesday with passage of an $825 billion economic stimulus package by a sharply divided House of Representatives.
Obama, who took office eight days ago, was denied, at least for now, his goal of bipartisanship. Favoring instead more tax cuts and less spending, every Republican voted against the landmark bill to combat the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, while all but a handful of Obama's fellow Democrats supported it.
With Obama's fellow Democrats rallying behind him, the House approved one of the most expensive bills ever, 244-188. Senate debate is expected to begin within days.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Obama sought bold and swift action and "that is exactly what action we are taking today."
On his first visit to the Capitol as president on Tuesday, Obama failed to ease Republican concerns the package included too little in tax cuts -- $275 billion -- and too much in spending at $550 billion.
The Democratic-led Senate is expected to approve a similar yet slightly more expensive version of the package within days. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would seek to begin debate in the Senate on Monday.
House and Senate negotiators will then seek to resolve differences and pass a final measure that Obama could sign into law by the middle of next month.
House Democrats rejected Republican efforts to strip out the new spending -- which includes money to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges and upgrade healthcare and schools -- and instead approve a package essentially restricted to about $478 billion in tax cuts.
Earlier in the day at the White House, Obama got a boost from corporate heads.
"The message has to be that the situation is dire," David Cote, chief executive of Honeywell, said after a meeting with Obama. "Everybody is being touched by this."
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Jeremy Pelofsky and Susan Cornwell; editing by Patricia Zengerle)
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