Published January 06, 2009
President-elect Barack Obama predicted Tuesday that the nation could see "trillion-dollar deficits for years to come," but said the country needs to continue spending taxpayer dollars to get the economy back on track.
Obama, speaking to reporters at his Washington transition office, said he didn't want to get into specific budget numbers because his proposal is still being worked out with lawmakers and has yet to be submitted for debate. But he expects a trillion-dollar deficit before the next fiscal-year budget is even proposed.
"We're already looking at a trillion-dollar budget deficit or close to a trillion-dollar budget deficit, and that potentially we've got trillion-dollar deficits for years to come, even with the economic recovery that we are working on at this point," Obama said.
The president-elect was lobbying Capitol Hill as the 111th Congress convenes, attempting to pitch an economy recovery package estimated to hit about $775 billion.
Asked about concerns of increased deficit spending, Obama said: "We know that we're going to have to spend money to jump-start the economy."
But he also pledged his stimulus plan will not include pork-barrel projects.
The package will set a "new higher standard of accountability, transparency and oversight. We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert projects without review," Obama said. "We're not having earmarks in the recovery package. Period."
Obama said he is planning to establish an oversight board to meet publicly and issue reports to Congress on how the money is being spent.
Democrats are promising swift action on the recovery program that is the first order of business for the Obama administration.
"We will hit the ground running ... to address the pain being felt by the American people," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised Monday as she welcomed Obama to her office.
For the first time in 16 years, Democrats control both houses of Congress and welcome one of their own to the White House. That foreshadows a productive session, particularly if Obama can muster Republican support for his initiatives, as he is seeking.
Pelosi had earlier promised to try to get the economic recovery bill ready for Obama's signature by Inauguration Day, an optimistic timeline that has now slipped by several weeks.
With their numbers bolstered by last fall's elections, congressional Democrats are well-positioned to dominate the session.
In the House, Pelosi finds her own position strengthened by a gain of more than 20 seats. Her status as the top Democrat in Washington, however, has been supplanted by Obama.
The Democratic majority will be 256 to 178 with one vacancy when the new House is sworn in, compared to 235-198 with two vacancies at the end of the previous Congress.
Democrats will use their bolstered majority to push through several changes to House rules, including a repeal of the six-year term limit for committee chairmen. That rule was imposed when Republicans seized control of Congress in 1995, after decades in which autocratic chairmen dominated the House. That era is mostly over, however, with power concentrated in Pelosi's office.
For Republicans, the next two years promise to be difficult. They vow to work with Obama but at the same time have installed a more conservative leadership team in the House that's eager to draw distinctions with Democrats.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.