Obama To Hear From GOP On Stimulus Plan

President Barack Obama will meet with Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday. He's trying to get their support for his $825 billion economic stimulus plan. The president has promised to listen to GOP ideas. However, most Republicans are still in the "no" column.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. President Obama hosted legislative leaders at the White House last week. Today, he travels to their turf. Mr. Obama will meet skeptical Republicans on Capitol Hill this afternoon in hopes of winning at least token bipartisan support for the $825 billion economic stimulus package. The president wants to spend some of that money on clean energy projects. In a moment, we'll hear about industries that could benefit from his plan. But first, NPR's Scott Horsley reports on what supporters and detractors are saying as details of the stimulus package emerge.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Environmentalists were in a celebratory mood yesterday as they gathered in the White House East Room. The president was about to sign a pair of orders that promised to make cars go farther on every gallon of gas. But before Mr. Obama picked up his ceremonial pen, he had a few sobering words about the U.S. economy. Caterpillar and Home Depot had just announced thousands of job cuts. on top of thousands more at Sprint- Nextel, United Airlines and even Microsoft.

President BARACK OBAMA: These are working men and women whose families have been disrupted, and whose dreams have been put on hold. We owe it to each of them, and to every single American, to act with a sense of urgency and common purpose. We can't afford distractions, and we cannot afford delays.

HORSLEY: Which is why today, Mr. Obama heads for Capitol Hill where he'll once again urge lawmakers to quickly pass the giant stimulus bill. He's hoping to win at least some Republican support for the measure, and he's promised to listen to GOP ideas. With the House set to vote tomorrow, though, most Republicans are still in the no column. GOP leader John Boehner told "Meet the Press" a plan calling for one-third tax cuts and two-thirds government spending is not the way to go.

(Soundbite of TV show "Meet the Press")

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): They believe that all of this spending is going to help. Some of it on infrastructure, if you can get it out the door quick enough, will help. But spending $200 million to fix up the National Mall, $21 million for sod, over $200 million for contraceptives, how is this going to fix an ailing economy?

HORSLEY: Republicans have also complained that much of the money in the stimulus package won't reach the economy in time to provide short-run help. The White House counters that three-quarters of the money would flow within 18 months. Any faster, officials say, and you'd run the risk of wasting money. Here's economic adviser Larry Summers speaking on NBC.

(Soundbite of NBC broadcast)

Dr. LAWRENCE SUMMERS (Director, National Economic Council): These problems weren't made in a day or a week or a month or even a year. And they're not going to get solved that fast. And so even as we move to be as rapid as we can in jolting the economy, in giving it the push forward it needs, we also have to be mindful of having the right kind of plan that will carry us forward over time.

HORSLEY: That includes investments in things like energy efficiency and alternative power. Mr. Obama calls them a down payment on a new energy economy that relies less on fossil fuels and especially, imported oil. Every president since Richard Nixon has promised to reduce America's dependence on foreign energy sources, but the commitment tends to rise and fall with the price of gasoline. Mr. Obama insisted his administration will stay the course, even as he acknowledged that course may be difficult.

President OBAMA: I cannot promise a quick fix. No single technology or set of regulations will get the job done. But we will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is freed from our energy dependence, and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama took what he called a first step in that direction yesterday, ordering the Transportation Department to implement higher fuel economy standards passed by Congress two years ago, and opening the door for California and other states to enact stricter limits on greenhouse gases. On a day when General Motors announced 2,000 more job cuts, the president said he wasn't trying to add another burden to the auto industry. It's already relying on taxpayer assistance. Instead, he said he wants to help automakers prepare for the future.

President OBAMA: We must help them thrive by building the cars of tomorrow, and galvanizing a dynamic and viable industry for decades to come.

HORSLEY: Automakers responded with a statement saying they are ready to work with the administration, but cautioning that they want one national standard for fuel economy, not different rules in different states. Because of the credit crunch, automakers say, they are already facing the toughest consumer market since World War II. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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