Obama pushes for swift, wide approval of stimulus plan

US President Barack Obama revealed Saturday new details of a $825-billion stimulus plan, pushing for a fast and symbolic vote in Congress. Republican opponents say it is too expensive and does not include enough tax cuts.


AFP - President Barack Obama on Saturday promoted his 825-billion-dollar stimulus plan to revive the reeling economy, saying it would make the United States more competitive in a new era.

Revealing new details of the plan as he sought to push for swift action in Congress, Obama said his proposal would provide relief to Americans through tax cuts and health care benefits while bolstering renewable energy and vital infrastructure.

In his first weekly radio address since he was sworn in on Tuesday, Obama said his plan was not "just a short-term program to boost employment.

"It's one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century," Obama said.

The plan would overhaul the country's power grid with 3,000 miles of new transmission lines, invest in renewable energy, expand broadband service to rural areas, bolster security at 90 ports, improve schools and deliver health insurance for millions who are at risk of losing their coverage, Obama said.

Touting the concrete benefits of his plan for ordinary Americans, Obama argued the package would allow more students to attend university, lower energy and health care bills and improve decaying schools and roads.

Obama's speech came after US unemployment claims hit a 26-year high and home building fell to half-century lows, highlighting the scale of the challenge faced by the new president.

Obama sought to rally support for the blueprint as he was to confer with his economic team Saturday, a day after holding talks with leaders of both parties in Congress.

"I am pleased to say that both parties in Congress are already hard at work on this plan, and I hope to sign it into law in less than a month," Obama said.

The president's stimulus package faces increasing signs of opposition from Republican lawmakers, who argue the plan is too expensive and should have more tax cuts.

But in his meeting on Friday with congressional leaders, Obama reportedly took a firm line with one Republican pushing for more tax cuts, saying he had a mandate for his approach having won a decisive victory at the polls on November 4.

Representative Eric Cantor said the president had told him, "You’re correct, there’s a philosophical difference, but I won, so we’re going to prevail on that."

"He was very straightforward," Cantor was quoted as saying by US newspapers. "There was no disrespect, but it was very matter-of-fact."

Republicans lack the votes to stall the stimulus package, but the president is hoping for big majorities for his first major piece of legislation to both kick-start the economy and strengthen his political hand.

Obama warned in his address that grave economic problems would not be cured quickly but he expressed confidence that bold action would help put the country back on track.

"If we act as citizens and not partisans and begin again the work of remaking America, then I have faith that we will emerge from this trying time even stronger and more prosperous than we were before," he said.

Responding to skeptical Republicans over the stimulus spending, Obama said he did not plan to "just throw money at our problems."

He promised more transparency, saying all spending decisions would be made public and his administration would be fully accountable.

"We will launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called," he said.

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