Published January 05, 2009
President-elect Barack Obama is trying to build bipartisan support for a massive economic stimulus package as he issues dire warnings about the consequences of inaction in the run-up to Inauguration Day.
Obama continued his meetings Monday with lawmakers on Capitol Hill looking to restore an economy that Obama describes as "bad. And the situation is getting worse."
"We have to act and act now," in order to break what he called the "momentum of this recession," Obama said before meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He met with key Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but also reached out to Republicans.
The talks are a sign that Obama is taking extra care to ensure his top agenda item sails through Congress, as Democrats aim for passage within weeks of Obama taking office.
"This is not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem at this stage," Obama said. "It is an American problem and we're going to all have to chip in and do what the American people expect."
At his meeting with bipartisan leaders of Congress, Obama said he would make his stimulus proposal available on the Internet, with a Google-like search function to show each proposed project or program, by congressional district, according to three people who attended.
After meeting with Obama, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was concerned about the plan's cost.
"This is not a package that's ever going to be paid for by the current generation," Boehner said. "It's being paid for by our kids and grandkids."
Republican lawmakers want more details, Boehner said, but he replied "yes" when asked if he expected a stimulus plan to be enacted within six weeks.
Obama is also scheduled to give a major economic policy address on Thursday. Ahead of that as many as 20 groups that supported Obama during the election are planning to hold rallies calling for quick action on his stimulus proposal.
Obama earlier on Monday called the country's current economic situation "extraordinary." He warned of what he called a "sobering jobs reports at the end of the week." He said he went to Capitol Hill ahead of his inauguration because "the people's business cannot wait."
Aides to the president-elect say the massive spending plan proposed will have a price of around $675 billion to $775 billion.
According to a source with Obama's transition team, the president-elect wants "tax cuts" to make up 40 percent of the package or about $270 billion to $310 billion depending on the size of the package.
About $150 billion will be offered in tax credits or rebates of up to $500 per worker ($1,000 for couples) to help stimulate consumer spending. This would be done mainly through reducing tax withholding formulas in paychecks. Low-income individuals who don't pay income taxes but pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes would also get rebate checks under the Obama plan.
"This relief won't be limited to people who actually pay taxes. Remember there are approximately 157 million federal tax returns filed every year, but just over 100 million of those actually pay federal income taxes," a Senate GOP aide told FOX News.
Under the Obama proposal, the stimulus measure would also include about $200 billion to help revenue-starved states with their Medicaid programs and other operating costs.
More than $100 billion would be offered in tax breaks for companies to save and create jobs and to make new investments in plants and equipment. Obama has said he wants to create 3 million new jobs.
Unemployment benefits would for the first time be given to part-time workers, and more health care assistance would be paid to laid off workers through Medicaid expansion and/or COBRA subsidies through employers.
The tax cuts initiated during the Bush administration would to expire on schedule in 2010 rather than being repealed sooner.
"We're working with Congress to develop a tax cut package based on a simple principle -- what will have the biggest and most immediate impact on creating private sector jobs and strengthening the middle class. We're guided by what works, not by any ideology or special interests," the source said.
With the proposal in the works, Obama now needs the Democratic-led Congress to push it through. Democratic lawmakers say that's unlikely to happen by Jan. 20, when Obama enters office.
"It's going to be very difficult to get the package put together that early," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said. "But we certainly want to see this package passed through the House of Representatives no later than the end of this month, get it over to the Senate, and have it to the president before we break" in mid-February.
Reid said they will do their "very very best" to get a package finished as soon as possible, but he was unwilling to set an artificial deadline for completion.
"We're going to get it done as quickly as we can," Reid said.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged to reporters flying on Obama's plane to Washington that the Jan. 20 goal for enactment of a stimulus plan is "very, very unlikely."
"We don't anticipate that Congress will have passed, both houses, an economic recovery agreement by the time the Inauguration takes place," he said.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky warned Democrats against trying to move quickly without the GOP's input.
"This is an enormous bill. It could be close to a $1 trillion spending bill," McConnell said. "Do we want to do it with essentially no hearings, no input, for example, in the Senate from Republican senators who represent half of the American population? I don't think that's a good idea."
Instead of giving all that money to states as grants, McConnell suggested it go as loans.
"It will make them spend it more wisely," McConnell said. "The states that didn't need it at all wouldn't take any."
Democrats understand that the GOP has to be involved in anything they do, said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.
"Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid both know that we can't pass the economic recovery plan that this nation desperately needs without bipartisan cooperation," Durbin said. "We've got to put aside a lot of the squabbling that in the past and come together under this new administration and new leadership, to get the American economy back on line."
Hoyer spoke on "FOX News Sunday," Reid appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," while Durbin and McConnell were on "This Week" on ABC.
FOX Business Network's Peter Barnes, FOX News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.