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Obama, US Lawmakers Discuss Economy, Financial Bailout


President-elect Barack Obama met with majority Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill Tuesday about an emerging economic stimulus plan. The talks came as the House of Representatives prepared to take up legislation that would place new restrictions on how the remainder of the government's $700-billion relief program for financial institutions is spent.

In a flurry of activity one week before his inauguration as the nation's 44th president, Mr. Obama sent key aides to negotiate details of the economic stimulus.

Composed of tax cuts and spending, the economic stimulus package is expected to cost at least $800 billion.

Lawrence Summers, the President-elect's chief economic advisor, outlined the incoming administration's economic stimulus proposals, and discussed the separate matter of releasing the second $350-billion installment of the $700-billion financial institution rescue program.

The Mr. Obama later conferred for about an hour with Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"It was a very good meeting," said Harry Reid. "We left, I think all of us felt very good, that we're going to work with the president-elect on this issue and those in the future to bring the country out of the deep hole that it finds itself in from an economic perspective."

Tuesday's discussions were aimed at smoothing over differences on the stimulus plan after Mr. Obama faced some opposition, including from members of his own Democratic Party.

Later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that Democrats are committed to passing stimulus legislation before the next major congressional break in mid-February.

"If we're not finished, we're not leaving," said Nancy Pelosi. "We won't leave here without an economic recovery package."

On the issue of the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, Mr. Obama wants to subject financial institutions to greater accountability, and direct more money to help American families and businesses.

Lawmaker displayed their determination to require new conditions in a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

The House has scheduled a Thursday vote on legislation authored by Democrat Barney Frank that would mandate tighter controls on recipients of government money and require spending to reduce home mortgage foreclosures.

"Having given $350 billion to the Bush administration, I believe it is reasonable to make it now available to the Obama administration, but with much more in the way of restriction," said Barney Frank.

However, ranking panel Republican Spencer Bachus expressed concern that the second installment would be misspent.

"We are seeing now this thing transition, if we approve this second half, into a grab bag, where people can just reach in and get taxpayer money," said Spencer Bachus.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced similar concerns, telling reporters that Mr. Obama has been in touch with Republicans on the TARP matter.

"We would like to hear more from the new president and his team about just exactly how the $350 billion would be used," said Mitch McConnell.

When it approved the first half of the financial rescue program in October, Congress gave itself 15 days after receiving a formal request from the White House for the balance of the funds, to approve or disapprove releasing the money.

Senate Majority Leader Reid told reporters on Tuesday that he is confident there would be sufficient votes to reject any motion for disapproval. One such measure was introduced on Tuesday, sponsored by five Senate Republicans. Any motion of disapproval from Congress would be subject a presidential veto.

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