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In rare agreement, Congress OKs rebate checks

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Negotiations over a stimulus plan began in the House, where Democratic leaders convinced the White House to expand eligibility for rebate checks to some 35 million working families who made too little to pay income taxes – and phase out those with adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples.

"For the first time, tens of millions of low-income working people, who have been excluded from past stimulus laws, will benefit from recovery rebates and the child tax credit," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement on Thursday.

The first draft of a stimulus plan, announced on Jan. 24, easily passed the House but appeared to bog down this week in the Senate. Senate Democrats, backed by eight Republicans, tried to add $43 billion in additional spending to the package, including extended unemployment benefits, alternative-energy tax credits, home-heating subsidies for low-income households, public works projects, and more support for nutrition programs.

But they fell one vote short in a high-profile vote on Wednesday. At the request of Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Sens. Hillary Clinton (D) of New York and Barack Obama (D) of Illinois came off their presidential campaigns to return to Washington to vote for the measure. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, the leading GOP contender, was the lone Senate absentee.

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