- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

President Obama on Wednesday morning called on Congress to quickly approve final passage of the stimulus plan during a visit to a construction site in Northern Virginia, as congressional negotiators prepared to finalize an agreement on a $789 billion deal later in the day.

“We’ve got to get a final version to my desk so I can sign it and so the people here in northern Virginia can use it,” Mr. Obama said.

Senate and House negotiators were working to hammer out a compromise between the $838 billion Senate version of the stimulus and the $821 billion House version. The Senate version has more tax breaks than the House version, which is heavier on direct government spending.

Congressional leaders and the White House struck a tentative agreement late Tuesday to keep the price of the economic stimulus bill at about $789 billion, a figure that should preserve a few key Senate Republican votes needed for final passage of the package.

The closed-door talks were set to resume Wednesday afternoon, with the White House pushing to return about $16 billion for school construction projects cut from the Senate-passed bill.

“We’re at the doorstep of getting this plan through Congress, but the work is not over,” said Mr. Obama, adding that the next challenge will be to successfully and responsibly administer the huge amounts of federal dollars.

The president said he understands “there’s a certain amount of skepticism, much of it justified” about the government’s ability to efficiently distribute so much money.

But he said he is “confident that we can do things differently and better,” highlighting the review board being set up to oversee expenditures and the new Web site, recovery.gov, that will be used to track each appropriation.

Mr. Obama and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, also the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, toured ongoing construction of a new major road, the Fairfax County Parkway, during a day meant to highlight the transportation impact of the stimulus.

“The president’s stimulus package […] will give Virginia the kinds of money we could use to complete the parkway,” Mr. Kaine said.

After day trips to towns in Indiana and Florida that have been hard hit by the economic crisis, Mr. Obama said his short trip was meant to show in part that “you don’t need to travel very far…to see why enacting that plan is both urgent and essential to our recovery, and to see that the time for talk is past.”

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