Updated from 9:01 a.m. EST
Congress on late Thursday approved a $168 billion stimulus bill designed to boost the sagging economy through tax rebates and business tax breaks, after Senate Democrats dropped demands for additional spending that threatened to sink the bill.
The Senate demands included extended unemployment benefits, home heating subsidies for the poor and some additional tax breaks for seniors and disabled veterans. The final version included the latter.
The bill calls for individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 to earn rebates of as much as $600 and $1,200, respectively. Taxpayers receiving the rebates additionally will receive $300 a child. Rebates are for the 2007 tax year, and the Treasury Department will begin mailing checks in May.
Seniors and disabled veterans, many of whom would have been passed over in the original agreement, will receive $300 rebate checks. The plan passed the Senate by a vote of 81 to 16.
Said Majority Leader Harry Reid:
"I make no apologies for fighting to provide economic relief to as many deserving Americans as possible. If we would have listened to the advice of the White House, House and Senate Republicans, 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans would have been left behind."
The House, which had passed a bill worked out with the Bush administration last month, last night approved the changes to the bill passed by the Senate. The House overwhelmingly passed it, as well, 380 to 34.
President Bush pledged to sign the bill.
The bill also raises the limit for so-called conforming mortgages that government sponsored entities
may purchase. The Senate had mulled dropping that provision and adding another that extends unemployment benefits.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) blessed the plan and the bipartisan effort to pass it:
"I'd like to thank the president and Treasury Secretary Paulson for their leadership on this issue. I'd also like to thank Speaker Pelosi, Senate Republican Leader McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for all of their hard work. This has been a rewarding bipartisan and bicameral process."