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Obama Urges Quick Senate Passage of Economic Stimulus

U.S. President Barack Obama is urging the Senate to follow the House of Representatives in passing his $800 billion plan to stimulate the economy. The president is calling the proposal "good news," after the bad economic news of the past week.

President Obama says the United States is struggling through "unprecedented economic turmoil." In his weekly address, he acknowledges recent announcements that the nation's economy shrank by almost four percent from October through December, and that tens of thousands of jobs were lost in January. Mr. Obama says senators need to approve his recovery plan quickly.

"With the stakes so high we simply cannot afford the same old gridlock and partisan posturing in Washington," he said. "It's time to move in a new direction."

The president's massive economic proposal passed the House of Representatives earlier in the week, but received no votes from Republicans.

In Saturday's response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republican lawmakers are willing to work with Democrats to tackle the country's economic problems. But he says the Democratic proposal is so loaded with unnecessary spending, it resembles a shopping list for Christmas gifts.

"The task for Democrats in the House was to draft a stimulus plan that was timely, targeted and temporary," he said. Apparently, they did not get the memo. The bill they presented, and which House Democrats approved this week along a party-line vote, looks more like $1 trillion Christmas list."

In the president's Saturday address, he also says Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will soon lay out a new strategy to get credit flowing to businesses and families.

"We'll help lower mortgage costs and extend loans to small businesses so they can create jobs," said Mr. Obama. "We'll ensure that CEO's are not draining funds that should be advancing our recovery. And we will insist on unprecedented transparency, rigorous oversight, and clear accountability, so taxpayers know how their money is being spent and whether it is achieving results."

For the second time in a week, Mr. Obama lashes out at the leaders of troubled investment firms who took government bailout money and paid bonuses to themselves and other executives.

"We learned this week that even as they petitioned for taxpayer assistance, Wall Street firms shamefully paid out nearly $20 billion in bonuses for 2008," he said. "While I'm committed to doing what it takes to maintain the flow of credit, the American people will not excuse or tolerate such arrogance and greed."

Meanwhile, AP and ABC reports quote an Obama administration official as saying Republican Senator Judd Gregg is the leading choice to become commerce secretary, and that the decision could be made as soon as Monday.

If Gregg leaves the Senate, his replacement would be appointed by the Democratic governor of the Northeastern state of New Hampshire. That would give the Democrats 60 seats in the Senate, enough to prevent Republicans from a filibuster, a tactic used to prevent legislation from coming up for a vote.