President-elect Obama is laying the groundwork for a giant economic-stimulus package, possibly $850 billion over two years, in his first test of legislative give and take with Congress.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Obama is laying the groundwork for a giant economic-stimulus package, possibly $850 billion over two years, in his first test of legislative give and take with Congress.
Obama’s economic advisers are assembling a recovery plan and reaching out to members of Congress and their staffs.
His aides cautioned they have not settled on a specific total. But they noted economists from across the political spectrum have recommended spending similar or even larger amounts to jolt the worsening economy.
Despite the uncertainty, Obama got help Thursday from 20 progressive groups investing more than $4 million in advertising and other events to push moderate Democratic and Republican lawmakers to help pass the package.
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Whatever the details, the package should be on his desk, ready for Obama to sign, the day he takes office Jan. 20, members of the group said in a conference call.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., this week said Democrats were preparing their own recovery bill in the range of $600 billion, blending immediate steps to counter the slumping economy with longer-term federal spending that encompasses Obama’s plan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that Obama has indicated Congress will get his recovery recommendations by the first of the year.
Obama’s aides have said they hope to work with Republicans in writing the bill, particularly in the Senate, where the GOP could slow action if it wants.
The package is expected to contain sweeteners for lawmakers of both parties.
Obama’s plan would feature spending on roads and other infrastructure projects, making government buildings energy-efficient, building and renovating schools and adopting environmentally friendly technologies.
There also would be some form of tax relief, according to the Obama team, which is aware of the political difficulty of pushing such a large package through Congress, even in a time of recession.
Any tax cuts would be aimed at middle- and lower-income taxpayers, and aides have said there would be no tax increases for wealthy Americans.
While some economists consulted by Obama’s team recommended spending up to $1 trillion over two years, a more likely figure is $850 billion. There is concern a package that looks too large could worry financial markets, and the incoming economic team also wants to signal fiscal restraint.
In addition to spending on roads, bridges and similar construction projects, Obama is expected to seek additional funds for numerous programs that see increased demand when joblessness rises, one Democratic official said.
Among those programs are food stamps and other nutrition programs, health insurance, unemployment insurance and job training.