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Obama Says Governors Want 'Swift Action' on Stimulus, Urges Washington Not to Stall

President Obama speaks before signing an executive order dealing with a middle-class task force at the White House on Friday. (AP Photo)

President Obama said Monday that Republican and Democratic governors across the country want "swift action" on an economic stimulus plan, urging Washington lawmakers not to let "modest differences" stall the package. 

Obama spoke to reporters at the top of a meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican who supports the stimulus proposal. As the president faces a possible Senate revolt over his recovery package, he is turning to the states for last-minute help in swaying skeptical lawmakers. 

"Nobody understands (the need for action) better than governors, mayors, county officials, who are seeing the devastating effects on the ground of the contractions of this economy," Obama said, with the Senate set to debate the legislation in a matter of hours. 

Stressing the outside-the-Beltway support for the plan, he said governors of both parties are clamoring for stimulus aid "with very few exceptions." 

"What we can't do is let modest differences get in the way of the overall package moving forward swiftly," Obama said. 

Douglas, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, plans to urge senators to approve the package after face-time with the president. He told reporters Monday that a recovery plan is "essential" to jump-start the economy. 

"This is a serious matter," Douglas said. "The only way we're going to get the country moving again is a partnership between the states and the federal government." 

Obama's drive for bipartisan support in the House ended last week with Republicans locking arms to oppose an $819 billion version of the bill, which passed over their objections. Now some Senate Democrats are crossing the aisle to raise serious concerns with Republicans about the even costlier version before their chamber. 

But some GOP governors, facing budget shortfalls in their states, are calling for the massive stimulus. 

Dennise Casey, deputy chief of staff for Douglas, said Vermont is facing a $200 million shortfall in fiscal year 2010. While she would not specify whether her boss supported the House or Senate version, she said he is not calling for any specific revisions.

She said the governor is not alone in focusing on infrastructure and Medicaid funding for his state.

"It's not unanimous support among Republican governors, but certainly there's a great deal of them who are working to help support this recovery package," Casey told FOXNews.com. 

Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, for instance, worked the phones last week to try to win support for the plan from his state's congressional delegation. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP nominee for vice president, was also planning to push for her state's share of the package. 

Stephen Wayne, government professor at Georgetown University, said Obama's reaching beyond the Beltway to build a broader consensus he hopes will eventually push through a stimulus plan. 

"It's the style of the man, and he wants this to be the style of his presidency," Wayne said. 

The bipartisan NGA released a statement last week broadly supporting the package, citing fiscal conditions in the states "not seen since the Great Depression." 

"Governors encourage Congress to complete work on the recovery package as quickly as possible," the statement said, adding that governors were eager to use federal dollars to "preserve core services, create new jobs and increase the nation's competitiveness." 

The money could be hard for some governors to resist, especially since congressional committees have already broken down the stimulus payout on a state-by-state basis. Even some governors who are against the stimulus in principle are not saying they will turn the money down.
Unions and liberal activist groups have also been pressuring key Republican senators to get on board, releasing an ad last week targeting senators in five states and urging them to back the plan. 

But Obama may be girding for substantial revision to the package, which contains billions for programs that some say will not stimulate job growth. He is meeting with congressional leaders Monday afternoon at the White House.

Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad, N.D., and Ben Nelson, Neb., are among those raising concerns about the plan. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's surprised Obama isn't "embarrassed" about the package. 

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complained Monday the bill now contains "too much unnecessary spending, not the right kind of tax cuts and no endgame." 

"After the economy recovers we should be on a path to a balanced budget. We're laying the biggest deficit on future generations in America's history," the former presidential candidate said on CBS' "The Early Show." 

The centerpiece of both tax packages is a $500 credit for individuals -- $1,000 for couples -- for 2009 and 2010, at a cost of more than $140 billion. For an individual, that amounts to less than $20 a week more take-home pay through 2009, about $10 a week in 2010. 

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told "FOX News Sunday" that the $500 credit won't push the economy out of the doldrums.

"The centerpiece of this is a $500 rebate to folks, about 27 percent of whom don't even pay federal income tax. That didn't work last year. It's not going to work this year. And so that's not a good place to start," he said.

FOXNews.com's Judson Berger and The Associated Press contributed to this report.