- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

President Obama received a welcome boost of support from a Republican governor Monday as the Senate begins debate on his $819 billion economic stimulus proposal.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas met privately with the president in the Oval Office, but told reporters allowed in for a few minutes that he wants to be Mr. Obama’s “partner” in coming up with a solution to help cash-strapped states.

“I know there are some differences on some of the elements” of the stimulus plan, Mr. Douglas said. “If I were writing it, it might be a little different…[but] the essence of the recovery package is essential to get our nation’s economy moving.”

See related story:GOP criticism of stimulus intensifies

(Corrected paragraph:) Mr. Douglas, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, said he’s seen people personally affected by the recession and said the nation’s governors are struggling to balance their budgets, preserve essential programs and “avoid the need to raise taxes.”

Mr. Douglas said he hopes to see a conclusion to the bill “in the near future.”

Florida’s Republican Gov. Charlie Crist also asked his state’s delegation to support the measure last week.

Mr. Obama said that when meeting with the National Governors Association in December he heard them say there was a need for “swift action” as they deal with “declining revenue” and increased need for social services.

“The recovery package that we are moving forward is designed to provide states relief to make sure that people laid off from their jobs are still able to get unemployment [benefits],” the president said.

See related story:Obama, leaders to meet over stimulus plan

Mr. Obama said there are “still some differences between Democrats and Republicans on the hill, but what we can’t do is let very modest differences get in the way of the overall package moving forward swiftly.”

The president, who also plans to persuade Congressional leaders in a Monday afternoon meeting at the White House, said his plan will “put Americans back to work and start digging ourselves out of this deep hole that we’re in.”

Mr. Obama held additional private meetings with his senior advisers and economic team at the White House Monday. He and Vice President Biden will meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates later Monday.

Mr. Biden plans to attend Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s official swearing in ceremony at the State Department Monday afternoon.

Mr. Obama, in an interview during the Super Bowl pre-game show Sunday with NBC, said the administration soon will be releasing a plan for regulating the financial sector.

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