Amid concerns about the U.S. economy and a potential recession, U.S. lawmakers are discussing a possible economic stimulus package aimed at easing burdens on Americans. Majority Democrats in the House of Representatives say they intend to work with Republicans and the Bush administration, and will meet with President Bush next week. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.
Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi says it's clear the U.S. economy is in a serious downturn. Appearing with other key Democrats, she said congressional leaders have made a decision to move ahead with a stimulus package:
"To put forth a stimulus package that will be timely, that will be temporary, and will be targeted to middle and low income families so that they can spend the money to inject demand into the economy, create jobs, ease the pain in their lives," said Pelosi.
Pelosi and House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer use the words timely, temporary and targeted to describe any proposal Congress would consider.
They would like to have a measure agreed upon, approved by Congress, and if possible signed by the president before the end of this month:
"We come with no pre-conditions with the administration," said Hoyer. "We want to act together, we want to act in a targeted way, to help those most challenged by the economic downturn that we have confronted."
In a presidential election year, concerns about high oil prices, rising health care costs, a volatile stock market, a home mortgage crisis, and various negative indicators have pushed the economy to the top of the agenda along with the war in Iraq.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer told reporters Americans are worried:
"They're also worried in the longer term about where we are headed as a nation economically, about how we will be doing 10 years from now, how our kids will be doing," said Charles Schumer. "This was always right beneath the surface and the downturn has brought it, you know, it has broken through in a very strong way and I think it is going to be the major focus of the Congress as re reconvene."
As Democrats blame problems on President Bush's economic policies, Republicans are trying to show they have as much concern about lower and middle class Americans as Democrats.
Some House Republicans introduced a plan Wednesday called the Middle Class Job Protection Act, including such steps as a reduction in corporate income tax, and help for small businesses.
For Republican Eric Cantor, economic proposals by Democratic presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama equate to, in his words, giving money away something he asserts will not help the economy:
"Let's call that what it is," said Cantor. "That is enhancing the safety net in this country. That is not something I think we should look to to grow our economy and to secure the job prospects and economic future for American families."
Before initial talks with speaker Pelosi on economic stimulus proposals, House Republican leader John Boehner said a solution will require bipartisan cooperation, but added Republicans will continue to oppose tax increases or new spending:
"We believe that pro-growth economic policies will in fact be the quickest stimulus to this economy, and that is clearly where our interest is, I'm not sure where their interest is at this point," said Boehner.
Pelosi told reporters she and Democratic leaders expect to meet with the president next week on the stimulus package, which she adds will not be a cure all.