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Congress sends stimulus bill to Bush

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  • NEW: House adds its approval to Senate bill, sends measure to Bush
  • White House officials say President Bush will likely sign bill next week
  • Bill gives $300 to $600 to people making $3,000 to $75,000, plus $300/child
  • Senate version drops extension of employment benefits, energy assistance
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House on Thursday quickly passed a Senate-approved economic stimulus package and sent the bill to the president's desk for his signature.

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Sen. Max Baucus said Democrats stripped down the stimulus bill to attract GOP votes.

The House voted 380-34 to accept the Senate's $170 billion measure, just a few hours after Democratic and Republican senators reached accord and ended a days-long stalemate over the bill.

The deal, passed in the Senate on a 81-16 vote, includes rebate check amounts of $300 to $600 for people who have an income between $3,000 and $75,000, plus $300 per child.

Couples earning up to $150,000 would get $1,200.

But the plan also gives checks to more than 20 million Social Security beneficiaries and 250,000 handicapped veterans and their widows.

Two White House officials said President Bush will probably sign the bill next week.

Senior administration officials said the Internal Revenue service will start working to implement the rebate check program as soon as the final details are reached and will not wait for the president to sign the bill. Officials said checks could be sent to millions of Americans this spring.

"I'm very happy that the vast majority of the U.S. Senate agreed that we have to change the economic direction of this country, and we've done that," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters.

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But he expressed dismay the package omits a number of provisions Democrats had sought, including an extension of unemployment benefits and checks for people aided by the food stamp program and the low-income home energy assistance program, measures that Senate Republicans and President Bush opposed.

"They're following this president right off a cliff," Reid said. "What they don't realize is he's already over the cliff."

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he was happy with the outcome: "I think we've demonstrated to the American people that we are, once in a while, able to come together and do something important to the country with a minimum amount of bipartisan bickering and do it in a timely fashion."

McConnell said the Senate bill also fixed a "glitch" in the House bill that would have made it possible for illegal immigrants to receive checks.

Senate Democrats agreed to scale back their economic stimulus package in order to gain Republican support for the measure.

The measure stalled Wednesday over GOP concerns the bill was too big and loaded with special-interest provisions, said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana. Video Watch why the stimulus bill stalled »

Congressional leaders and the White House had hoped to pass a stimulus package quickly to address economic fears of recession.

The agreement came shortly after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged Congress to move with haste on the package to reduce the odds of the nation's economy descending into recession.

"We believe that a growth package must be enacted quickly, it must be robust, temporary and broad-based, and it must get money into the economy quickly," he told the House Ways and Means Committee.

Earlier Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, in an effort to get the Senate-blocked economic stimulus package rolling, said the House was ready to respond.

"We are eagerly awaiting the decision of the Senate as to how they will go forward. ... If they do not, we stand ready to do so." Pelosi said.

"Decisions have to be made, and again we want this to be timely so that it makes a difference for people right away, targeted to those in the middle class, and those who wish to be in the middle class; and ... [timely], so that people will use it," she said.

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On Wednesday, seven Republicans joined 51 Democrats in supporting the broader Senate package, which would have injected about $50 billion more into the sagging economy than the plan President Bush and House leaders supported. But the Senate ended up two votes short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill in the face of a GOP filibuster.

The nearly $150 billion package Bush proposed last month was approved overwhelmingly by the House January 29. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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