WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama said Friday that he and Congress will "hone and refine" his nearly $800 billion economic recovery plan, as he seeks to patch fissures with senior Democrats over key features of the still-emerging plan.
The job was made more urgent with the release of a Labor Department report showing job losses of 524,000 in December and a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, the highest in 16 years.
Obama said he welcomed input from lawmakers in both parties. His plan is getting off to a rocky start, with top Democrats openly slamming key provisions, especially the design of his tax cuts.
"If members of Congress have good ideas, if they can identify a project for me that will create jobs in an efficient way that does not hamper our ability over the long term to get control of our deficit, that is good for the economy, then I'm going to accept it," the president-elect said.
A squadron of Obama officials came to the Capitol to brief House Democrats on the measure and again heard criticism of some of Obama's proposed tax cuts, particularly a $3,000 tax credit for job creation. Lawmakers pressed for more infrastructure spending and tax credits to promote renewable energy.
"What we can't do is drag this out when we just saw a half-million jobs lost," Obama said.
A call for a $3,000 tax break for job creation drew particular criticism in a closed-door meeting, and numerous lawmakers said Obama had not ticketed enough of his tax proposal for energy and that more needed to be done to ease the Housing crisis.
"All of their priorities are ones that we share," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "We just want to make sure that those functions, when they're written in the bill, are ones that can be used immediately and can create jobs."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Friday that areas of broad agreement and universal sentiment of the need to act far outweigh areas of disagreement.
"Please don't get the idea there was some sort of breakdown here," Boxer told reporters.
Obama's aides and congressional Democrats have been at work for weeks on legislation to create new jobs, help the unemployed, cut taxes and aid cash-strapped states. There also are subsidies to help the newly unemployed afford their health care, a big new effort to improve the energy efficiency of federal buildings, and tax credits for business investment in plants and equipment.
The details are closely held and subject to change -- and the cost of various components seems to be bouncing around daily in the push and pull between the Obama transition team and congressional leaders.
"Spend more on infrastructure. That was a recommendation made in the caucus," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said money will be added to have state and local governments buy up foreclosed homes.
Boxer said about 20 percent of the bill would provide aid the cash-strapped states, with 40 percent, or about $300 billion for tax cuts for individuals and businesses. The remaining 40 percent would go to spending programs such as infrastructure, help for the unemployed and research into renewable energy.
One tax provision would provide a $500 tax cut for most workers and $1,000 for couples, at a cost of about $140 billion to $150 billion over two years. The individual tax cuts may be awarded through withholding less from worker paychecks, effectively making checks about $10 to $20 larger each week.