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US Treasury Secretary Meets With Legislators on Stimulus Package

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson met with congressional leaders Wednesday for talks on a stimulus package for the U.S. economy. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

Secretary Paulson met with the leaders of both political parties in the House of Representatives - Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Republican John Boehner. Boehner told reporters they looked at a lot of options but reached no conclusions.

Paulson is the president's lead negotiator with Congress. In a meeting with members of the U.S. Council of Mayors, President Bush said the economy needs a boost because Americans are facing uncertainty brought on by higher energy costs and a falling real estate market.

"I talked to them about my desire to work with the Congress to get a stimulus package passed, one that is going to be robust enough to effect the economy, simple enough for people to understand it, and efficient enough to have an impact," he said. "And I am confident that we can get something done."

The president met Tuesday with congressional leaders, including Pelosi and Boehner, as well as the parties' Senate leaders, Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell. Reid says Democrats are working with Republican colleagues and the Bush administration to get an economic stimulus package to the president in the next three weeks.

"I would hope that we can get something done really quickly, that we set aside our individual ideologies and move forward with a package that is one that the American people identify with," he said.

President Bush says broad-based tax relief must be big enough to make a difference. So he is proposing an amount equal to about one percent of the value of all U.S. goods and services. That is between $140 billion and $150 billion.

Mr. Bush wants tax incentives for businesses to make investments this year as well as direct and rapid income tax relief for individuals.

Democrats agree on the need to help individual taxpayers, but they also want to boost unemployment benefits and food aid. That social spending may face opposition from a president who says the deal should not include projects with little immediate impact on the economy.

Asked about a possible extension of unemployment benefits, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president is not closing the door on other people's ideas, but as Paulson is negotiating with Congress in private, Perino said she will not comment publicly on any specific proposals.

At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told political and business leaders that the American economy is resilient and sound.

Some participants at the Forum have criticized this week's cut in U.S. interest rates saying that could spark inflation. Others say lower interest rates are a bad idea because cheap loans contributed to the real estate bubble that, when it burst, started the economic woes.