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Obama Seeks Republican Support for Economic Plan


In meetings on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama has urged minority Republicans to support economic recovery legislation moving through Congress. Republicans in the House of Representatives maintained their opposition to what they call wasteful spending proposals, but repeated their willingness to work with the president.

With a House vote set for Wednesday and the Senate preparing to take up the legislation, the stakes are high as President Obama tries to overcome Republican objections to the economic recovery plan.

The president said he had a "constructive exchange of ideas" with House Republicans, adding that he continues to be optimistic about getting the measure through Congress.

Before going into talks with Senate Republicans, Mr. Obama addressed the resistance many Republicans have to proposed spending levels and specific provisions of the plan, saying the key is to put politics aside to advance the legislation.

"There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have, and I respect that. In some cases, they may just not be as familiar with what is in the package as I would like. I don't expect 100 percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people's business right now," he said.

The legislation would spend $825 billion on numerous domestic projects, and includes $275 billion in tax cuts. Democrats want to get it President Obama's desk by the middle of February.

House Republicans say they were encouraged that the president continues to be open to considering changes to the plan.

Minority Leader John Boehner described the president as being sincere in wanting to work with Republicans, saying Mr. Obama shared some of their concerns about spending.

"So much of the spending that is in the bill, frankly, though it may be laudable in itself, has no place in the stimulus bill, which ought to be focused like a razor on the preservation, protection and creation of jobs," said Representative Eric Cantor, the House Republican Whip.

In their criticisms, Republicans pointed to revised Congressional Budget Office, of CBO, estimates that only about 65 percent of proposed spending would be injected into the U.S. economy over 19 months.

CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf was questioned in a House Budget Committee hearing about the potential impact of the stimulus spending and tax cut portions of the bill.

He responded to this question from Alabama Republican Bob Aderholt:

ADERHOLT: "What percentage of that, out of the $500 billion [spending portion] would you say actually would stimulate the economy?"

ELMENDORF: "I think all of the $800 billion [total package] provides some stimulative effect. The extent of stimulus varies by category, but it all matters, all of it."

Republicans asserted that the eventual overall cost to the economy of the legislation could exceed $1 trillion.

In a 21 to 9 vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee gave its approval to a Senate version of the economic measure in advance of consideration by that chamber.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley discussed differences between Democrats and Republicans. "Where we differ is the degree to which the engine ought to be government or private sector, especially America's biggest job creator - that of the small business sector - where we brag about it creating 70 or 80 percent of the new jobs. These are honest, well-intended, philosophical differences between the two parties, but they are there."

As comments on Tuesday by Republicans indicated, there appear to have been no breakthroughs, but President Obama told reporters he continues to welcome what he calls "good ideas" on the legislation.

After several hours debate on Tuesday, the House scheduled a Wednesday vote on the economic measure.

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