novel bill has passed the Senate by a wide margin complete with meaningless giveaways and patches:
The Senate specializes in high-stakes legislating by enticement, and the long list of sweeteners it added was designed to attract votes from various constituencies.
In addition to extending several tax breaks popular with businesses, the bill would keep the alternative minimum tax from hitting 20 million middle-income Americans and provide $8 billion in tax relief for those hit by natural disasters in the Midwest, Texas and Louisiana.
Tax cuts new and old are favorites for most House Republicans. Help for rural schools was aimed mainly at lawmakers in the West, while disaster aid was a top priority for lawmakers from across the Midwest and South.
Another addition, to extend the deductibility of state and local taxes for people in states without income taxes, helps Florida and Texas, among others.
The rescue bill hitched a ride on a popular measure that gives people with mental illness better health insurance coverage. Before passing it, senators voted by an identical 74-25 margin to attach the massive bailout and the tax breaks.