- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

President Obama met with House and Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday to try to persuade them to support his $835 billion economic stimulus package. His press secretary said later that Mr. Obama believes “we’ll all be in political trouble if we don’t get people back to work.”

“The president’s message is that we cannot sit idly by,” White HousePress Secretary Robert Gibbs said after Mr. Obama’s meetings with congressional Republicans. “We have to act.”

Mr. Gibbs told a White House briefing that the tone of the president’s meetings was “very cordial” and “very polite” and that the discussions focused on “ideas about how to move the process forward.”

The House was expected to vote Wednesday on the stimulus package, which contains proposals from tax cuts to make-work programs to repair the country’s infrastructure that are intended to turn around the economy, which is in the 13th month of a worsening recession.

Many House Republicans strongly oppose the legislation and want it to contain more tax reductions as a way to get the economy moving again more rapidly.

Tens of thousands of people have been dismissed from their jobs just since Monday, including 20,000 at Caterpillar, the heavy earth-moving machinery company, at a time when more than half a million people a month are filing for jobless claims for the first time and the unemployment rate stands at 7.2 percent.

“The way the president is going to evaluate this bill is whether it gets the economy moving again,” Mr. Gibbs said. “The president believes that we’ll all be in political trouble if we don’t get people back to work.”

Democrats hold the majority in both the House and Senate, which means that the stimulus bill would have little trouble getting adopted. But Mr. Obama went to the Hill in an apparent spirit of compromise in order to get bipartisan approval for his legislation.

“The president believes honestly that we can put something together from both parties,” Mr. Gibbs said. “The most important thing about tomorrow is to get the process moving along.”

“The more we delay, the more people are going to lose their jobs,” he said. “He’s (the president) happy that the tone that has been set is the right one.”

After his meeting with House Republicans, Mr. Obama said, “We continue to welcome good ideas.”

Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican whip, said Mr. Obama told him and his colleagues that “the most important thing is that he has no pride of ownership in this bill.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said “the president wanted to find some common ground” in trying to produce a bipartisan stimulus package. “The president is sincere in trying to minimize those differences” between Democrats and Republicans.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, said there had been no attempt by House Democrats to compromise with GOP members on the legislation but said, “We are grateful for the outreach from the White House.”

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