Stimulus bill ekes through Senate vote

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., center, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., left, walk away after speaking with media before the stimulus bill vote in Washington on Monday. Lawrence Jackson, The Associated Press

AP

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., center, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., left, walk away after speaking with media before the stimulus bill vote in Washington on Monday. Lawrence Jackson, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – An $838 billion economic stimulus bill backed by the White House narrowly advanced in the Senate on Monday over strong Republican opposition, and Democratic leaders vowed to deliver the emergency legislation for President Barack Obama’s signature within a few days.

The vote was 61-36, one more than the 60 needed to move the measure toward Senate passage on Tuesday. That in turn, will set the stage for possibly contentious negotiations with the House on a final compromise on legislation the president says is desperately needed to tackle the worst economic crisis in more than a generation.

The Senate vote occurred as the Obama administration moved ahead on another key component of its economic recovery plan. Officials said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would outline rules on Tuesday for $350 billion in bailout funds designed to help the financial industry as well as homeowners facing foreclosure.

Monday’s vote was close but scarcely in doubt once the White House and Democratic leaders agreed to trim about $100 billion on Friday.

As a result, Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania broke ranks to advance the bill.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., battling a brain tumor, made his first appearance in the Capitol since suffering a seizure on Inauguration Day, and he joined all other Democrats in support of the measure.

“There is no reason we can’t do this by the end of the week,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said, he declared he was prepared to hold the Senate in session into the Presidents Day weekend if necessary, and cautioned Republicans not to try and delay final progress.

He said passage would mark “the first step on the long road to recovery.”

Moments before the vote, the Congressional Budget Office issued a new estimate that put the cost at $838 billion, an increase from the $827 billion figure from last week. Ironically, the agency said provisions in the bill intended to limit bonuses to executives at firms receiving federal bailout money would result in lower tax revenues for the government.

Associated Press Writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this story.