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Bush calls on Congress to pass $140 billion stimulus package

Democratic congressional leaders hope to have a final deal by Jan. 28.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / January 18, 2008



Washington

In a bid to avert a steep downturn, President Bush called on Congress to pass an economic growth plan that's big enough to make a difference – and to do it quickly.

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"This growth package must be temporary and take effect right away – so we can get help to our economy when it needs it most," Mr. Bush said in remarks from the White House on Friday.

Without laying out details of ongoing negotiations on Capitol Hill, the president said the growth plan should include broad-based tax relief for American businesses and taxpayers and be about 1 percent of US gross domestic product.

Sharp drops in key economic indicators are changing the dynamic in Washington from gridlock to consensus, at least on a plan to revive the economy.

The No. 1 priority in ongoing bipartisan negotiations is speed, say congressional aides on both sides of the aisle. Issues likely to slow down a deal are being sidelined in the interest of consensus.

In all, the package should come in between $140 billion and $150 billion, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, in a briefing after the president's remarks. He declined to confirm comments by congressional aides that the White House is proposing rebates for taxpayers in the $800 to $1,600 range. (That compares with rebates of $300 and $800 in the president's 2001 stimulus plan.)

"We want to be open, collaborative, and not have too much specificity as we work with Congress to work out the details," Secretary Paulson said.

On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic leaders said that they welcomed the president's willingness to work with Congress on a stimulus plan. "The President has outlined his principles, as have Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Now we will work together on the details of a stimulus package," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In the run-up to the president's remarks, Senate majority leader Harry Reid had complained in a written statement that Bush was preempting bipartisan negotiations by "unilaterally detailing his own approach without congressional input."

The flap was quickly resolved.

Senator Reid "appreciates the fact that the president didn't get into a lot of detail. The last thing we can afford right now is people staking out positions and getting back into their respective corners. We need to do something as quickly as possible," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid.

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