Obama, congressional leaders meet on economic stimulus

January 6th, 2009 - 2:42 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 6 (DPA) President-elect Barack Obama Monday began work with congressional leaders to hammer out a stimulus package designed to jump start the ailing US economy.Speaking with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi Monday morning ahead of the closed door meeting, Obama stressed that it was important to get to work on the plan before he takes office Jan 20.

“Obviously, the inauguration stand is being built in the background, but the reason we’re here today is because the people’s business can’t wait,” said Obama, who Sunday moved to Washington to allow his daughters to begin school Monday. “We’ve got an extraordinary economic challenge ahead of us.”

Obama has not publicly discussed many details of his plan, except to say that it will include investment in infrastructure, technology and health care. He is to give a speech Thursday outlining its details for the public.

The stimulus package is expected to be nearly as large as the $700-billion rescue plan offered by the Bush administration for the financial industry, which saw losses from mortgage-backed securities spiral out of control and threaten the broader economy.

Estimates put Obama’s plan at between $675 billion and $775 billion, with the New York Times reporting Monday that about 40 percent of the total would be devoted to tax cuts for workers and business.

Obama was meeting with leaders from both parties in the upper and lower houses, and the tax cuts were expected to garner more Republican support for the plan.

The new Congress convenes Tuesday, and Pelosi, a Democrat, made clear that the stimulus plan would be its top priority.

“Tomorrow, we will swear in a new Congress. We’ll … hit the ground running on the initiatives that you … described, to address some of the pain being felt by the American people,” Pelosi said.

She indicated she hoped to have legislation for Obama to sign shortly after his inauguration.

However, on Sunday, other congressional leaders indicated it was unlikely a stimulus package could be pushed through that quickly and that it would more likely be passed by mid-February.

About $300 billion in tax cuts and incentives were expected, with about $150 billion going to workers and 100 to businesses.

In addition to the $700 billion to help the financial sector, President George W. Bush last year offered funds to the ailing US automotive industry and sent stimulus checks to taxpayers.

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