- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama kicked his transition to the White House into high gear Monday morning with the first of two visits to Capitol Hill to meet with congressional leaders about his plan to jumpstart the American economy.

“The reason we are here today is because the people can’t wait. We have an extraordinary economic challenge ahead of us,” Mr. Obama said at the beginning of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mr. Obama was set to meet in the afternoon with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and then with the full roster of Democratic and Repulican leaders from both chambers.

The Obama transition office also announced that they have raised $3.8 million to help pay for the transition effort. The president-elect’s office released the full list of all 53,583 donors, who they said donated an average of $70.62.

The president-elect, who dropped off his daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, at their first day of school in Northwest this morning, is in Washington for his first full day back from vacation. He and his family left Hawaii on Thursday and arrived in Chicago on Friday.

After his roughly 45-minute meeting with Mrs. Pelosi, he was scheduled to meet with economic advisers at his transition offices in Chinatown and then head back to the Capitol for the meetings with Mr. Reid and other leaders.

Mr. Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Package is expected to cost between $675 billion to $775 billion, and will include tax cuts, refunds and incentives of up to $310 billion, an Obama transition official said.

“We’re working with Congress to develop a tax cut package based on a simple principle - what will have the biggest and most immediate impact on creating private sector jobs and strengthening the middle class,” said Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro.

“We’re guided by what works, not by any ideology or special interests,” he said.

Some Republicans said today that their concerns have eased over the possibility of Democrats ramming the bill through in time for Mr. Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Corrected: But Mrs. Pelosi said during her appearance with Mr. Obama that by Jan. 20 “we hope to have signed into law legislation that will improve the lives of the American people.”

A Pelosi spokesman, however, said the speaker was not referring to the stimulus but to “general priorities” and that she told a reporter privately the recovery package would be sent to Mr. Obama at some point after the inauguration.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said on TV yesterday that he expects the stimulus to more realistically be ready for Mr. Obama’s signature near the middle of February.

Republicans still want to hear if Mrs. Pelosi plans to hold more hearings on the bill beyond this Wednesday’s in the House Steering Committee, and they want Democrats to allow several days for lawmakers to digest and debate the language in the final bill.

Republicans remain worried that many of the $500 rebates that make up part of the tax cut, and other refunds, will be given to the 57 million or so tax filers, out of roughly 157 million, who end up paying no federal income tax at the end of the year.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has some tax cut ideas of his own that revolve around lowering the tax rate from 25 percent to 15 percent for incomes between $31,000 and $77,000.

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