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House, Bush stimulus deal on fast track

Democrats and Republicans are anxious to get $300 to $1,200 in tax-rebate checks to wage earners by spring.

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The roughly $150 billion spending package hammered out by the House leaders and President Bush will add some pop to the sluggish US economy by the spring and may be enough to avert or end a recession.

The plan is relatively simple for individuals, a tax rebate targeted at those who are likely to spend the money rather than save it. It will hit the economy at about the right time, say many economists of the bipartisan deal announced Thursday.

The Senate plans to put its own stamp on the plan, while respecting the goal of getting a bill to the president's desk by the President's Day recess next month.

The tentative deal calls for giving $300 to $600 for an individual filer and up to $1,200 per family, plus more for children. No rebates would go to those earning more than $75,000 ($150,000 per household). Small businesses will get a tax incentive to spend as well.

"It is no doubt positive for the economy," says Richard DeKaser, the Washington-based chief economist for National City Corp. in Cleveland. "It's a serious stimulus package, and I have little doubt its effect will be meaningful." The fiscal stimulus comes even as the Federal Reserve is aggressively dropping interest rates. On Tuesday, the nation's central banker lowered rates by 0.75 percent and is expected to drop rates again next Wednesday.

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