This afternoon the Senate passed its proposed $838 billion economic stimulus bill, HR 1, also known as the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” (ARRA), by a 61-37 vote. Passage of the bill came after heavy compromise that cut approximately $83 billion from the spending portion of the fiscal package. Three moderate republicans, Senators Snowe and Collins of Maine and Senator Specter of Pennsylvania, voted in favor of the amended bill. The House passed its version of the economic stimulus bill on January 28, 2009.

Chairman Baucus of the Senate Committee on Finance (D-Montana) hailed the Senate’s passage of ARRA and stated that “[t]oday, Americans can see that Congress is acting deliberately and decisively on the economic crisis.” He further noted that with the passage of ARRA “those hit hardest by the economic crisis will get a little breathing room, with measures to keep them on their feet financially and protect their health.”

The House and Senate will now need to form a conference committee to resolve the significant differences between the two versions of the bill before voting again on compromise legislation. Senate Democrats have appointed Senator Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (D-Hawaii), Senator Baucus, Chairman of the Finance Committee and Majority Leader Reid (D-Nevada) as conferees while the Senate Republicans have appointed Senators Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) and Grassley (R-Iowa). The House is expected to name their conferees later today.

The Senate version of the bill differs from the House version on a wide range of spending programs and in a number of areas proposing tax relief for individuals and families, small business, and energy, health care and trade. The Senate Finance Committee has issued a summary of certain key differences in the tax-related provisions of the two bills.

In addition, the Senate’s version of ARRA includes new executive compensation requirements on institutions participating in the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The goal of the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate is to present a final bill to President Obama, who has urged the quick passage of the economic stimulus package, before the scheduled Presidents Day recess next week.