WASHINGTON – Congress, facing the prospect of an election-year recession, passed an emergency plan Thursday that rushes rebates of $600 to $1,200 to most taxpayers and $300 checks to disabled veterans, the elderly and other low-income people. President Bush indicated he would sign the measure.
House passage by a 380-34 vote came a few hours after Senate leaders ended a drawn-out stalemate over the bill. The $168 billion plan is intended to provide cash for people to spend and tax relief for businesses to make new investments — boosts for an economy battered by a housing downturn and a credit crunch.
The Senate's 81-16 vote capped more than a week of political maneuvering. The stalemate ended when majority Democrats dropped their demand that rescue proposal offer jobless benefits, heating aid for the poor and tax breaks for the home building and energy industries.
GOP senators refused to relent in their opposition to those ideas, but did agree to add $300 rebates for older people and disabled veterans to a $161 billion measure the House passed last month.
Bush said the final plan was "robust, broad-based, timely, and it will be effective." The compromise, he said in a statement after the Senate acted, was "an example of bipartisan cooperation at a time when the American people most expect it."
Rebate checks could begin arriving in May. The rebates would be based on 2007 tax returns, which are not due until April 15.
The legislation would rush rebates — $600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples — to most taxpayers and cut business taxes in hopes of reviving the economy. Individuals making up to $75,000 a year and couples earning up to $150,000 would get the full rebate, with those making more than that getting smaller checks.
People who paid no income taxes but earned at least $3,000 — including through Social Security or veterans' disability benefits — would get a $300 rebate.
"We believe the stimulus, the way it is targeted, will put money into the hands of those who will spend it immediately, injecting demand into the economy and therefore creating jobs," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told colleagues.
The measure also includes steps to boost the ailing housing market.