WASHINGTON - Savoring his first big victory in Congress, President Barack Obama yesterday celebrated the newly passed $787-billion economic stimulus bill as a "major milestone on our road to recovery."
Speaking in his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said, "I will sign this legislation into law shortly, and we'll begin making the immediate investments necessary to put people back to work doing the work America needs done."
But he also cautioned, "This historic step won't be the end of what we do to turn our economy around, but rather the beginning. The problems that led us into this crisis are deep and widespread, and our response must be equal to the task."
The bill passed Congress late Friday on party-line votes, allowing Democratic leaders to deliver on their pledge of clearing the legislation by mid-February. Obama could sign the measure as early as Tuesday.
"It will take time, and it will take effort, but working together, we will turn this crisis into opportunity and emerge from our painful present into a brighter future," the president said.
Obama "now has a bill to sign that will create millions of good-paying jobs and help families and businesses stay afloat financially," said Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and leading architect of the measure.
"It will shore up our schools and roads and bridges, and infuse cash into new sectors like green energy and technology that will sustain our economy for the long term," he added in a statement.
Hours earlier, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell offered a different prediction for a bill he said was loaded with wasteful spending.
"A stimulus bill that was supposed to be timely, targeted and temporary is none of the above," he said in remarks on the Senate floor. "And this means Congress is about to approve a stimulus that's unlikely to have much stimulative effect." Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in the GOP radio address yesterday, contended Democrats settled "on a random dollar amount in the neighborhood of $1 trillion and then set out to fill the bucket."
In a weekslong struggle, lawmakers in the two political parties both emphasized they wanted to pass legislation to revitalize the economy and ease frozen credit markets. But the plan the administration and its allies eventually came up with drew the support of only three Republicans in Congress -- moderate Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.