- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Wednesday he’s confident that a multibillion dollar plan to kick-start the ailing economy will survive a crucial House vote.

He wasn’t anxious to say how much Republican support he’ll get when the roll is called, however. Democrats enjoy a sufficiently comfortable majority that they likely won’t need GOP help when the vote happens later in the day. Obama had said earlier that Republican support would back up his argument that a new style of bipartisan politics is needed in Washington.

Asked whether he was confident of getting Republican support, he replied only: “I’m confident we’re going to get it passed.”

TWT RELATED STORY:Obama urges bipartisan stimulus package

The president talked about prospects for the $825 billion measure during a picture-taking opportunity in the Roosevelt Room where he was surrounded by supportive CEOS from major businesses.

“These are people who make things, who hire people,” Obama said. “They are on the front lines in seeing the enormous problems in our economy right now. Their ideas and their concerns have helped to shape our recovery package.”

Obama said their presence underscores why it is so important to “act, and act swiftly” in getting the nation’s economy going on.

His program is expansive — and expensive. Republican support has been in doubt, and remained in doubt in the hours leading up to the vote.

House Minority Leader John Boehner wouldn’t say Wednesday morning how he thought the vote would turn out. He did emphasize anew that GOP members are worried about billions in domestic spending that “has nothing to do with creating jobs or preserving jobs.”

“We’re for more than just cutting taxes,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told CNN that “where we have differences with the House Democrats is that the package just doesn’t seem to reflect our priorities, nor the president’s.”

McConnell said the proportion of tax cuts versus spending increases in the version being pushed by Democrats has been “crammed down” to about 20 percent of the total instead of the 40 percent envisioned by both Republicans and Obama.

Senate committees were working on a separate version of the measure that enjoyed only slightly more support from Republicans. Congressional leaders have promised Obama they would send him the measure, which could be the single largest bill ever to go through Congress, by mid-February.

The president’s first days in office have been dominated by his efforts to drum up bipartisan support for the sweeping plan to help pull the country out of the year-old recession that he inherited from former President George W. Bush. The increasingly troublesome economy — and the federal government’s response to it — is the first major test of Obama’s presidency; how he handles the volatile situation, and the effect of his stimulus package on the economy, could well set the tone for his first year in office, if not his entire term.

He is casting the measure as the first step toward turning around the moribund economy while laying the foundation for long-term objectives, like developing alternative energy sources and rebuilding the country’s highways.

The House measure includes about $550 billion in spending and roughly $275 billion in tax cuts in hopes of spurring the economy and helping those directly affected. Much of the spending would be for items such as health care, jobless benefits, food stamps and other programs that benefit victims of the downturn.

As debate on the measure began Tuesday, most Democrats trumpeted it as the elixir for what ails their jobless constituents and pressed for passage; Republicans generally griped about “insane” programs that would be funded in the plan and “minuscule” tax relief for small businesses as they urged opposition.

The legislation “isn’t an economic stimulus bill but a rampant spending spree,” said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

Democrats made one small change, voting to delete $20 million intended for renovating the National Mall. Republicans had criticized the expenditure as wasteful.

Associated Press writer David Espo contributed to this report.

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