Obama Prepares to Tackle Domestic and Foreign Crises

After a holiday vacation in Hawaii, President-elect Barack Obama is rolling up his sleeves to tackle a crumbling U.S. economy amid escalating hostilities in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas.

Obama will meet with congressional leaders on Monday to discuss his economic stimulus plan and he will talk with President Bush and former presidents at the White House on Wednesday, FOX News has confirmed.

Obama plans to meet with GOP leaders as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the start of the week.

The first order of business for Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress is to enact the still-emerging economic recovery plan as soon as possible.

The plan, which some Obama aides think could swell to about $850 billion after negotiations with lawmakers, would be the largest investment in public infrastructure since the federal highway system was established in the 1950s. It also would provide tens of billions of dollars in aid to financially strapped states.

Political analysts say one of Obama's early challenges will be to solicit bipartisan support to push his plan through Congress.

"The shape of Congress is such that the Republicans in the Senate can stop anything because we don't have 60 Democrats in the Senate," Democratic strategist Michael Meehan told FOX News. "So Republicans have to come to the table to help with this."

Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating gave Obama credit for not jumping into the fray until he is sworn in as the nation's 44th president on Jan. 20.

"I think as he said, there's only one president at a time and I think it's appropriate for the president-elect to let the current president to resolve these issues, make public declarations, handle agendas and the like," Keating told FOX News.

Shirley Anne Warshaw, a professor of politics at Gettysburg College and a fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told FOXNews.com that Obama needs to work closely with lawmakers unlike his predecessor.

"The Bush-Cheney years created an imperial presidency when they said presidential decision making is supreme. They said they didn't need Congress," said Warshaw, who is writing a book on the legacy of Bush and Cheney. 

"What Barack Obama needs to do is reengage a legislative relationship and say we need to work together," she added. "He needs to work with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and build a relationship that was seriously lacking in the last eight years."

Warshaw said she expects Obama to make the effort because he was a sitting senator when he was elected president and because he named Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel his chief of staff.

"That's a big statement," she said.

During his holiday, Obama stayed largely out of the escalating hostilities in the Middle East, where Israeli troops have launched an offensive against Hamas leaders who fired rockets from Gaza. Aides say there is only one president at a time, but Obama received security briefings and spoke with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and his incoming national security team.

Matt Levitt, a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said the Gaza conflict is an opportunity for the incoming Obama administration to lead an international coalition bent on empowering Palestinian moderates and weakening extremists.

"The Obama administration will be in a good position to take advantage of the opportunity that this situation provides," he said, referring to Hamas potentially losing political control of Gaza.

"I think the larger lesson here is that radical Islamist groups from Hezbollah in Lebanon to pick your group in Iraq is watching the international community's response to Hamas," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.