Security tightens as inauguration approaches

Barack Obama is considered a target for several reasons - for being the next president of the United States, by terrorists like Al Qaeda, and for being the first black man in the Oval Office, by racist groups.


AFP - Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid said Tuesday the Senate was likely to approve the release of a second 350-billion-dollar financial bailout package this week aimed at stimulating the US economy.

"I think we will get the necessary votes," the majority leader told reporters after meeting with president-elect Barack Obama and Democratic senators, adding that he felt "very confident" about prospects for the bill's passage.

Reid added that the resolution would come up for a vote before Sunday.

Obama, wrapping up his final visit to the US Capitol ahead of his inauguration as president on January 20, waved to reporters but made no comment following the talks.

The president-elect had asked outgoing President George W. Bush to request lawmakers unlock the second half of the massive 700-billion-dollar Wall Street bailout package approved in October, which Bush did on Monday.

A day later, Obama held an hour-plus lunch meeting with lawmakers to plead his cause.

Obama is set to use the funds to try to boost the flagging US economy and overcome the credit squeeze by encouraging investment and spending. Some measures are also set to be taken to stem the number of foreclosures.

But some lawmakers voiced concern.

"What we really need is something with more details so that we can truly make those decisions about how the money is going to be spent," said Democratic senator Ben Nelson.

"They talk about conditions but I don't know what the conditions are."

Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd acknowledged that the release of the bailout funds was urgently needed, even if it was not certain to reverse the downfall of the US economy.

"This is not a popular vote, and it never has been... but this is a top issue because we got into this situation that requires action," Dodd told reporters.

"As the president-elect said, this is a tool that's needed," the Democrat and former White House hopeful added.

"If you want to get credit flowing no one can guarantee that this going to do it exactly. But in the absence the ability to get credit flowing becomes much more difficult."

Reid said that the group shared a "recognition that the country's in a deep economic crisis, but there's a way out of it," as long as the administration sets a "robust" economic recovery plan to create jobs and restore market confidence.

According to estimates, the stimulus package that Obama's economic team is crafting could cost as much as 800 billion dollars over two years.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said that "getting it (the stimulus package) on the desk of the president by February 13 is very good likelihood now."

Meanwhile, the proper use of the 700 billion dollar bailout approved under the Bush administration, called the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), was also key, Reid said.

"Second thing that's important is the TARP legislation, that we must approve that, for a number of reasons, the most important of which is the ability to do something about housing," he said.

The funds are needed, he said " to bring about growth in cities and counties and communities all over America."

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