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Obama Readies for First Prime Time News Conference


U.S. President Barack Obama is stepping up his campaign for passage of the massive economic stimulus plan now making its way through Congress. Mr. Obama is taking to the road and the airwaves.

The president is taking the case for the stimulus plan directly to the American people.

He has scheduled his first White House news conference for Monday night. Before and after the meeting with reporters, he is traveling to states hard hit by the economic recession, to take questions from the public.

Those states are Indiana, which he will visit early Monday, and Florida, where he will attend a town meeting on Tuesday.

Both are experiencing high levels of unemployment and, in the case of Florida, one of the highest home foreclosure rates in the nation.

They provide the perfect backdrop to underscore the message President Obama put forward in his Saturday radio address:

"The time for action is now," said President Obama. "Because if we don't move swiftly to put this plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe."

Obama Gets Little Republican Support

Mr. Obama has been calling for a bipartisan approach to the problem. But, in recent days, his tone has gotten sharper. Faced with scant Republican support for the legislation now before Congress, the president is pointing to what he considers to be the failed policies of the past.

"We can't expect relief from the tired old theories that, in eight short years, doubled the national debt, threw our economy into a tailspin, and led us into this mess in the first place," said Mr. Obama.

The Senate could vote on its $827-billion version of the stimulus package by Tuesday. Then starts the difficult task of reconciling that bill with the earlier version passed by the House of Representatives.

Tough Sell in House of Representatives

Republicans refused to back the original House bill and indicate they are not about to change their minds.

Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana told NBC's Meet the Press Sunday that the $819-billion House package includes too much government spending and will explode the national debt.

"With all due respect to the President of the United States, the ideas, the worn out ideas that the American people are tired of is runaway government spending," said Mike Pence.

Pence was joined on NBC by Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts - the Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services. He said the American people voted for Democrats in Congress and the White House because they want change, and a new approach to the economy.

"We had an election last year, which had pretty decisive results in the White House, the Senate and the House," said Barney Frank. "And it did say that public spending for improved infrastructure, to keep bridges from crumbling, to keep cops [police] and firefighters working, that that is a good thing."

President Obama has said he would like to see a bill clear Congress before next weekend, when lawmakers are scheduled to leave Washington for a holiday recess.

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