David Espo, AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting with uncommon speed, Congress sent President Barack Obama sweeping, bipartisan legislation late Thursday night to avoid a Jan. 1 spike in income taxes for millions and renew jobless benefits for victims of the worst recession in 80 years.
The measure also will cut Social Security taxes for nearly every wage-earner and pump billions of dollars into the still-sluggish economy.
The 277-148 vote came the day after the Senate cleared the bill, 81-19.
The legislation was the result of a reach across party lines between Obama and top Republicans in Congress — stubborn adversaries during two years of political combat that ended when the GOP emerged the undisputed winner in midterm elections on Nov. 2.
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., called it "a bipartisan moment of clarity" as the House moved toward a vote.
After forcing a delay in the House early in the day, Democratic critics settled for a separate vote in their bid to toughen an estate tax provision they attacked as a giveaway to the very rich. They were defeated, 233-194, with one vote of "present."
"The president will be able to sign it as soon as he likes," said Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey as the events unfolded in the final days of a tumultuous two-year Congress.
In a statement released shortly after the vote, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said the bill was "good for growth, good for jobs, good for working and middle-class families, and good for businesses looking to invest and expand their work force."
House Republicans who will move into powerful posts when the GOP takes control in January urged passage of the bill.
Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, in line to become majority leader, said the measure, while not perfect, marked a "first step" toward economic recovery.