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Congressional Democrats Outline Stimulus Plan, Republicans Criticize Deficit Spending


Majority Democrats in Congress have provided details of a huge stimulus plan to help the battered U.S. economy, a bill that would be signed into law by Barack Obama after his inauguration as president next week.

At a projected $825 billion, the measure combines $550 billion in spending on a range of projects, aid for state and local governments, and $275 billion in tax cuts to create jobs and kick the economy out of recession.

Briefing reporters on Thursday, David Obey, Chairman of the House of Representatives' Committee on Appropriations, emphasized that job creation is a key objective.

Obey held up a chart from an economic expert who recently testified to Congress, predicting a potential 12 percent unemployment rate if a stimulus plan is not passed.

"We are losing jobs at a rate greater than 125,000 per week, and that is why speed is a necessity," he said.

House committees will consider the measure next week, with a goal of getting it to the House floor by the end of this month and sending it to the Senate.

Obey and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bill takes into account suggestions from President-elect Barack Obama.

Pelosi commented on job creation objectives.

"We will have immediate job creation, that the job creation will continue, so that we have stabilization of the economy," she said.

Summaries of the legislation released by Democrats detail billions of dollars of investments in infrastructure projects, energy, technology, education, health programs and other areas.

Minority Republicans criticized the plan, calling Democratic spending proposals insufficient to stimulate the economy.

"It's clear that they [the Democrats] are moving on this path along the flawed notion that we can borrow and spend our way back to prosperity," said John Boehner, the Republican Minority Leader.

Amid worsening unemployment numbers and ongoing market volatility, President-elect Obama wants quick action on the stimulus package. He also has pushed lawmakers to approve the release of the second $350 billion installment of the financial institution bailout.

A final vote in the House of Representatives on a measure imposing strict new conditions on how financial bailout money is spent is expected next week.

In a statement, Mr. Obama said he is pleased with the progress by House Democrats, adding that the legislation will contain strict and independent oversight, so Americans can hold Washington accountable for how and where money is spent.

While it would be one of the largest measures ever considered by Congress, Representative Obey said it should not be described as a "grand spending scheme".

At the same time, he warned that even the proposed $825 billion plan might be insufficient to stimulate an economy he described as "spiraling downward at a much faster rate than anybody thought possible."

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