Obama, lawmakers to discuss economic plan
AFP - 1 hour 49 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - US President-elect Barack Obama will meet Monday with key congressional leaders to discuss a multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus plan Democrats hope to pass shortly after Obama takes office.
The meeting will be Obama's first with Capitol Hill lawmakers since his historic November 4 election victory, and his first high-profile act in Washington after moving to the capital from his Chicago home on Sunday.
Obama will meet the heads of both chambers of Congress, including Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
ABC news reported that House Republican leader John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are expected to participate in the talks, though Republican congressional aides did not confirm a schedule.
The talks will center on a recovery plan for the troubled US economy, which will be the first priority of his new administration.
For several weeks Obama's economic team have been in talks over a future package. The negotiations were almost wrapped up before Christmas, vice-president elect Joe Biden said in an interview.
According to US media reports, the bill to be presented to lawmakers could exceed 850 billion dollars, while some commentators say the eventual package could top a trillion dollars.
To revive the world's largest economy, struggling amid global financial turmoil, the incoming White House economic team hopes to create three million jobs -- 80 percent of which will be in the private sector.
The stimulus plan will attempt to favor long-term infrastructure and job creation projects over tactics aimed at boosting consumer spending, according to Obama advisor Lawrence Summers, tapped to head the new White House National Economic Council.
With the United States facing gloomy forecasts of up to 10-percent unemployment and a deepening recession in 2009 -- likely "the bleakest economic outlook since World War II" -- Summers said creating three million new jobs was a "key pillar" of Obama's plan.
"In this crisis, doing too little poses a greater threat than doing too much," Summers wrote in an editorial in The Washington Post.
"Any sound economic strategy in the current context must be directed at both creating the jobs that Americans need and doing the work that our economy requires."
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Obama planned to include in his stimulus package a 300-billion-dollar tax break .
The president-elect hopes the tax break for people earning up to 200,000 dollars a year that also includes a one-year tax credit for companies that hire or rehire more people -- worth some 40-50 billion dollars -- will help "create or save" three million jobs by 2011.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday's meetings are designed to get legitimate bipartisan input and to convey a sense of urgency about the state of the economy.
"We've seen statistics, we've seen Christmas sales, consumer confidence and obviously upcoming job numbers which underscore that a very serious situation has only gotten worse and isn't likely to get better any time soon," Gibbs told reporters traveling with Obama.
But he agreed with predictions that it was "very unlikely" that the stimulus package would be ready by January 20, when Obama takes office.
Obama flew to Washington from Chicago as he faced the first major embarrassment over his cabinet lineup as his choice for commerce secretary was forced to pull out.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said he was withdrawing his name from contention for the economic job owing to an investigation into a financial company doing business with his state.
In a joint statement issued with Obama, Richardson said he had asked the president-elect to pull his name from the Senate confirmation process with "great sorrow."
Obama is also expected to discuss with lawmakers the legislative agenda of the new Congress, which will meet for the first time next week.
President George W. Bush has invited Obama to a White House lunch Wednesday, along with former presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
The president-elect, his wife Michelle and daughters are staying at the luxury Hay-Adams Hotel, a stone's throw from the White House.
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US President Elect Barack Obama walks down the steps of an Air Force jet January 4 at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. Obama will meet Monday with key congressional leaders to discuss a multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus plan Democrats hope to pass shortly after Obama takes office.
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