President-elect Barack Obama said Saturday that the nation finds itself at one of its “moments of trial” because of the economy and called for Congress to pass a massive public spending bill to create jobs, saying it would pull the country out of its slump.
“We need an American recovery and reinvestment plan that not only creates jobs in the short term, but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long term,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address.
Democrats in Congress and in governor’s mansions across the country have floated proposals for massive public works projects, potentially topping $1 trillion in spending.
But Mr. Obama warned that his spending program would not be part of “the old Washington habit of throwing money at the problem.” The president-elect said there would be “vigorous oversight” of the spending and accountability for the projects.
The president-elect has a meeting scheduled Monday with congressional leaders of both parties. Mr. Obama, President Bush and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Carter will meet at the White House on Wednesday to discuss major issues facing the country.
Also Saturday, Obama” >Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia moved to Washington ahead of the president-elect, who is staying in Chicago until Sunday.
The three took up residence at the Hay-Adams Hotel — which will be the family’s residence until they move into the Blair House, the traditional pre-inauguration home, Jan. 15 and then the White House Jan. 20. The Obamas had to come to Washington early because the girls start classes at the elite Sidwell Friends School in Northwest on Monday.
On the budget, Republicans are calling for a careful approach.
“Every dollar needs to be spent wisely and not wasted in the rush to get it spent,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. He said his party wants to see Mr. Obama live up to his earlier pledge to scour the federal budget for places where programs can be cut.
While saying controls need to be part of the legislation, Mr. Obama said the real cost-cutting will have to come later, after the economy is back on track.
Mr. Obama did not mention President Bush by name, but gave a sobering assessment of Mr. Bush’s last year in office: “Nearly 2 million Americans have lost their jobs this past year - and millions more are working harder in jobs that pay less and come with fewer benefits.”