Obama hits the road to sell his $838 bn stimulus plan

February 10th, 2009 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 10 (IANS) US President Barack Obama appeared before a national audience to sell his $838 billion economic stimulus plan even as it survived a key vote in the Senate, putting a compromise bill on track for passage Tuesday.

Saying this is not your “run-of-the-mill recession”, Obama declared in his first prime time news conference at the White House Monday that “only the federal government can break the vicious cycle gripping the US economy”.

Obama gave his message a road test Monday as he travelled to Elkhart, Indiana, to stump for the plan.

“My bottom line is to make sure that we are saving or creating four million jobs, we are making sure that the financial system is working again, that homeowners are getting some relief,” he said at the press conference.

“It is absolutely true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector,” Obama said.

“But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life,” he added.

“We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama said.

However, he was “absolutely confident” the country’s economic problems can be solved, “but it’s going to require us to take some significant, important steps”.

Obama said the first step is passing his economic recovery plan. Then, he said, it would be important to attract private capital and get the credit markets flowing again.

The Senate gave Obama a big victory just hours before his news conference, voting to end debate on the bill and move to a full vote Tuesday.

With the help of Republican Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter, the Democrats locked in the 60 votes needed to end debate on the bill. The final vote was 61 in favor, 36 opposed.

The bill is expected to survive a full vote in the Senate Tuesday, setting up a battle within the House as the two chambers try to iron out differences between their versions of the bill.

Obama wants both chambers to come to an agreement so he can have the bill on his desk by Presidents Day, which is next Monday.

The downturn could become a “crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse”, the president told a packed high school gymnasium at a campaign-style town hall. “We can’t afford to wait.”

Obama is planning a second campaign-style swing Tuesday, heading to Fort Myers, Florida, another city wrestling with double-digit unemployment.

Leading Republicans warned Sunday that the Obama administration’s stimulus effort would lead to what one called a “financial disaster”.

“Everybody on the street in America understands that,” said Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. “This is not the right road to go. We’ll pay dearly.”

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