A mammoth economic-stimulus measure has advanced on its long, winding path through Congress, with the Senate’s approval on Feb. 10 of a $838.2-billion package that was pared back from an earlier version. The cuts that were needed to win enough votes to pass the bill included about $27 billion in construction funds. That left the final Senate bill with about $133 billion for construction programs, compared with about $160 billion in the bill as it cleared committee. The major construction casualty came in school-construction aid, where lawmakers deleted all $19.5 billion the original bill had recommended for K-12 and college projects.
After the Senate’s 61-37 vote, just above the 60-vote minimum for passage, the focus now turns to negotiations to work out differences between the Senate bill and the $819.5-billion package that the House passed on Jan. 28. Democrats still want to have a final bill ready for President Obama’s signature by Feb. 16, but that will not be an easy task.