February 14, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Stimulus bill passes; Mich. may get $18B

Only 3 Republicans in Congress vote for $787B plan that Obama may sign next week.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (C) answers questions during a news conference with (L-R) Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. John Larson (D-CT), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA.) (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- Congress gave President Barack Obama his first major victory Friday, a $787 billion package of tax cuts and spending that he believes will create jobs and help right the nation's economy.

The Senate approved the measure 60-38, with three GOP moderates providing crucial support. Hours earlier, the House vote was 246-183, with all Republicans opposed to the package of tax cuts and federal spending that Obama has made the centerpiece of his plan for economic recovery.

The president could sign the bill as early as next week, less than a month after taking office.

But it was not the bipartisan triumph Obama said he wanted. Not one House Republican supported the bill -- despite intense pressure on several wavering lawmakers, including two from Michigan. And afterward, there was plenty of partisan finger-pointing on both sides.

Republican Reps. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, and Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, blamed Democrats -- including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- for slashing $11 billion in tax credits to encourage new car purchases.

Democrats blamed Republicans, specifically the three senators who demanded cuts in return for the votes necessary to overcome a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

"That was all the Democratic Party. There were no Republicans making those decisions," said Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Livonia.

Blaming Democrats, said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, "is looking for an excuse to vote no."

Friday's approval ended a dramatic week of late-night negotiations and razor-thin vote margins, despite Obama's intense lobbying of Republicans, including Upton.

Fittingly, it wrapped up with a tense vigil: While the House approved the plan Friday afternoon, Senate Democrats had to hold open the vote more than five hours to enable Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to race back to the Capitol from his mother's funeral visitation and cast the decisive 60th vote.

Despite anxiety about rising unemployment, Republicans and Democrats bickered over the solution, then bickered over who was to blame for their bickering.

The National Republican Congressional Committee bashed Michigan's two freshman House Democrats, Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Mark Schauer of Battle Creek, for supporting a "trillion-dollar pork-laden package." The Michigan Democratic Party accused McCotter of refusing "to put the needs of hard-working families and struggling businesses of Michigan first."

Supporters pointed to a long list of provisions they said would boost Michigan. A summary released by Appropriations Committee aides said Michigan would get more than $5.2 billion in direct aid, including $1.3 billion to patch holes in the leaky state budget, plus more than $1 billion in highway and transit money.

A separate analysis by the National Governors Association estimated the state would get more than $2 billion in increased Medicaid funding, which it desperately needs to balance its budget.

House Democrats pointed to estimates from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, that Michigan would get more than $18 billion when all the spending and tax relief is totaled. That includes a $100-a-month increase in unemployment benefits, income tax credits of $400 for individuals and $800 for couples, and other tax cuts.

The auto industry also gets some help. The bill includes a tax break of as much as $10 billion for General Motors, a liability it was facing as an unintended consequence of the government's $13 billion in aid. There are tax breaks for makers and buyers of hybrid electric vehicles, $2 billion in grants for development of advanced auto batteries and $300 million to buy new cars for federal agencies -- a provision Republicans repeatedly mocked as pork.

But with such a massive bill -- $787 billion, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate -- there was still plenty of uncertainty about its impact.

Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said state officials "are still poring over the details of the conference report" to determine three things: precise amounts available to Michigan; conditions that must be met to get the money; and the degree of flexibility the state has.

She said a large "wish list" of projects that local governments and agencies have submitted will be made available early next week. Some of the items on that list will not be eligible for funding, and there are more requests than could ever be funded, she said.

"A final list of what will receive stimulus money is still a ways off," Boyd said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers were headed for a weeklong recess, sure to be followed by more battles over a new bank rescue plan, help for homeowners facing foreclosure and the looming 2010 budget, as well as a massive spending bill for normal government operations this year.

Detroit News Staff Writer Mark Hornbeck contributed to this report.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) talks with reporters before voting for the $787 ... (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)