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Obama meets with Republicans on stimulus

This article was posted on Jan 28, 2009 and is filed under Press Releases

By Caren Bohan and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama urged skeptical Republicans to back his $825 billion economic stimulus package on Tuesday during a visit to the Congress on Capitol Hill.

Shortly before Obama arrived, House Minority Leader John Boehner told fellow Republicans that in its current form, he could not vote for the stimulus and encouraged fellow House Republicans to vote against it, a Boehner spokesman said.

Obama conferred first with Republican members of the House of Representatives and then was to go to the other side of the Capitol to talk to Senate Republicans.

Republicans agree that the stumbling economy needs a rescue package. But they complain the Democratic $550 billion spending proposal is excessive while their proposal to cut taxes by about $275 billion does not go far enough.

“We’re anxious to help him. We think the country needs a stimulus,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier on Tuesday on NBC’s “Today Show.”

A week after taking office, Obama faces an economic crisis that seems to worsen by the day. U.S. consumer confidence slipped to a record low and major U.S. companies are cutting tens of thousands of jobs as financial industry troubles continue to mount.

Obama’s meeting with the Republican lawmakers comes the day after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner won Senate confirmation and was sworn in.

The Democratic-led House and Senate are expected to approve the package by the middle of next month regardless of how many Republicans embrace it.

McConnell said he believes Congress can hit the Democrats’ deadline of passing a rescue measure by mid-February. He said Obama may have more difficulty with Democrats than Republicans in getting a balanced package.

With the House set to vote on its version of the plan this week, a co-chair of the coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats said his 50-member group had concerns.

Representative Charlie Melancon of Louisiana said his colleagues want Obama to promise that the record federal deficit is not further bloated by tax cuts or by increases in mandatory government spending programs, like the Social Security retirement program and Medicare health care program for the elderly.

“The majority of us want to support the president and do a stimulus package,” Melancon said. “But we also have come to the realization that every day that we don’t get a commitment to reel in this spending that we’ve been doing without paying for it is a day … that the problem gets worse.”


White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama wants to listen to Republicans as part of his vow to seek consensus and end traditional partisan gridlock.

“He wants to hear their ideas. If there are good ideas — and I think he assumes there will be — that we will look at those ideas,” Gibbs told reporters on Monday.

Obama’s aides have said three-quarters of the proposed new spending, on health care, education and building new roads and bridges, would work its way into the economy within 18 months.

A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would take a bit longer. CBO estimated that about 64 percent of the stimulus package would reach the economy within 19 months.

The Democratic tax cut plan would direct benefits more toward lower-income workers, even those who do not pay income taxes, while the House Republicans are pushing an alternative that they say would help all taxpayers.

Another issue expected to come up at the Capitol meeting is the shaky condition of the U.S. financial system.

As the credit crunch worsens, Obama’s aides are looking at ways to help struggling homeowners and stem banking turmoil.

White House aides have not ruled out Obama seeking addition funds to help the financial sector beyond the $700 billion approved by Congress last fall.

But the bailout program is unpopular with both parties so any request for more money would be a tough sell.

(Additional reporting by Donna Smith, Steve Holland, Susan Cornwell and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Alan Elsner)

source: yahoo finance

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