Obama stresses urgency of now for stimulus bill

Senate moderates from both political parties worked to cut as much as $100 billion from economic stimulus legislation and clear the way for the bill’s passage as President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to “rise to this moment.”

With the economy showing fresh signs of weakness, Obama said Thursday, “The time for talk is over. The time for action is now.”

Senate Democratic leaders said they hoped for passage of the legislation by Friday, and prospects appeared to hinge on agreement to a series of changes that would trim the size of a bill costing well over $920 billion.

Senate centrists met privately, and emerged saying they had made progress toward an accord.

“The president made a strong case for a proposal that would be in the neighborhood of $800 billion,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who met with Obama at the White House on Wednesday.

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

Obama has issued a series of increasing dire warnings in recent days as the Senate debated the legislation at the heart of his economic recovery plan, and Thursday was no different.

Appearing before employees at the Department of Energy, he called on lawmakers to “rise to this moment. No plan’s perfect,” he said. “There have been constructive changes made to this one over the last several weeks. I would love to see additional improvements today.”

Democratic congressional officials said the president had invited some of the Senate moderates to the White House to discuss possible changes in the measure.

In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, the president argued that each day without his stimulus package, Americans lose more jobs, savings and homes. His message came as congressional leaders struggle to control the huge stimulus bill that’s been growing larger by the day in the Senate. The addition of a new tax break for homebuyers Wednesday evening sent the price tag well past $900 billion.

“This recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse,” Obama wrote in the newspaper piece.

He rejected the argument that more tax cuts are needed in the plan and that piecemeal measures would be sufficient. His latest plea came on the same day the economy dealt with another dose of bad news: A big jump in jobless claims and another round of weak retail sales.

Initial jobless claims rose to 626,000, a 26-year high, the Labor Department said. And the number of claims by people continuing to apply for unemployment benefits reached a new record of nearly 4.8 million.

The housing tax break was the most notable attempt to date to add help for the crippled industry and gave Republicans a victory as they work to remake the legislation more to their liking.

“It is time to fix housing first,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said Wednesday night as the Senate agreed without controversy to add the new tax break to the stimulus measure, at an estimated cost of nearly $19 billion.

Three swing-vote senators met with Obama at the White House on Wednesday to discuss possible cutbacks.

For their part, Senate Republicans signaled they would persist in their efforts to reduce spending in the measure, to add tax cuts and reduce the cost of mortgages for millions of homeowners.

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2 Responses to “Obama stresses urgency of now for stimulus bill”

  1. federalistblogs Says:

    If you have any doubt about how bad this bill will be, just look how it is being sold. An irreversible recession? Really now, why not tell us that the boogey man will come out from under our beds too?

    The constant need to push this through fear and false panic only reaffirms that this is a bad bill. Likely, it is far worse than we even can begin to imagine.

  2. spatialcontext Says:

    There was a great op ed column this am in the NY Times by Gail Collins.She wrote that the problem is not the bill but politics. The truth i thats Barack has to stop being professorial and detached and start being specific and oratorical. This is not a bad bill. It is a great bill. It will do what needs to be done. It is messy but the problems are messy and multifaceted. This bill will move us forward from the ground up and it will help those who need it. Tax cuts would do nothing, less than nothing. . The Republicans have gotten out ahead with their same old tired speeches. Oh yeah, and these are the guys that gave away 750 billion to the bankers to do with as they please. This bill is for the other 99% of us. Please read the bill before you assume it is something it is not.

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