As US President Barack Obama continued his pitch to the nation to sell his $838 billion economic stimulus plan, the senate handed him a big victory approving the measure by 61-37 votes with the backing of three Republicans.
The measure approved Tuesday with the help of Republican senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter will now have to be reconciled with an $827 billion version passed Jan 28 by the House of Representatives. It received no Republican votes in the House.
Obama wants both chambers to come to an agreement so he can have the bill on his desk by Presidents Day next Monday.
Meanwhile, Obama took his stimulus sales pitch to a town hall in Fort Myers, Florida, a politically conservative region suddenly reeling under double-digit unemployment and the highest home foreclosure rate in the nation.
Obama's town hall -- much like the one he held Monday in Elkhart, Indiana -- was well-attended. People began waiting in line for tickets over the weekend. Many camped out overnight, with tents and sleeping bags springing up near the front door. All tickets were gone in less than an hour.
Obama used Tuesday's town hall forum to emphasise again that the country is not in a "run-of-the-mill recession".
Much of the package involves infrastructure spending, long-term energy projects and aid to cash-strapped state and local governments. The president predicted that with his plan, the country would see significant improvement starting next year.
Republicans opposed to the plan say it includes too much wasteful spending and too few tax cuts.