President-elect Barack Obama continues to urge swift congressional action on a massive economic-stimulus package he hopes to sign into law within weeks of taking office. U.S. legislators of both parties agree time is short to prevent further economic deterioration, but disagreements persist on what a stimulus package should contain.
With the Labor Department reporting U.S. unemployment at a 16-year high of 7.2 percent, President-elect Barack Obama says any delay in efforts to reverse the economic slide will make a dire situation even more severe.
"We are not trying to jam anything down people's throats," said Mr. Obama. "Here is what we know, though: that the sooner a recovery and reinvestment package is in place, the sooner we can start turning the economy around. We cannot afford three, four, five, six more months where we are losing half a million jobs per month."
Mr. Obama was speaking in an interview that aired on ABC's This Week program. The president-elect has proposed a whopping $775 billion stimulus package that combines government expenditure on energy initiatives, infrastructure projects, and healthcare proposals with tax cuts for middle income earners and small businesses. Mr. Obama says the package will help lift the United States out of a year-long recession and pave the way for long-term economic growth.
On the need for quick action, the president-elect gets little argument from Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to keep the chamber in session for as long as it takes to hammer out and pass a bill - even if that means canceling a February recess.
House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio echoed the call for swift action, but, speaking on CBS' Face The Nation program, expressed misgivings about massive new federal spending at a time of record budget deficits.
"I think it needs to be finished in the Congress and on the president's desk as quickly as possible," said Boehner. "The country needs it. But we need to do it in a responsible way. And I think a lot of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle know that we cannot borrow and spend our way to prosperity. That we cannot bury our kids and their kids under a mountain of debt."
The need for fiscal restraint does not seem to be lost on the president-elect. Mr. Obama says in the long run sacrifices will be required from all Americans if the nation is to prosper.
"We are inheriting over a trillion-dollar deficit," he said. "Unheard of. Not everything that we talked about during the campaign are we going to be able to do on the pace that we had hoped."
Last November, Democrats increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. As a result, political analysts say the incoming president could likely get a stimulus package through the legislature with only minimal Republican backing. But Mr. Obama has said he wants broad bipartisan backing for the bill, and has met with congressional leaders of both parties to ask for their ideas and support.