Obama Still Focused On Bipartisan Stimulus Plan

A day after traveling to Capitol Hill to meet with Republicans on the stimulus bill, President Obama took his case to the American people. He assembled the media in the East Room of the White House, where he and corporate leaders made the case for quick action. Their efforts had no effect on the GOP. The bill passed the House without Republican support, but Obama continues to look ahead to final passage of a bipartisan proposal.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. And as expected, the House of Representatives voted last night to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the ailing U.S. economy through a combination of tax cuts and direct government spending. That vote was a victory for President Obama, but it came about without the bipartisan buy-in he was hoping for. Not a single Republican voted in favor of the economic stimulus package. But the White House says there's still time to bring GOP votes onboard. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama said in a statement last night he's grateful to the House for moving the stimulus forward, but he's already looking ahead to the next round. Mr. Obama hosted a cocktail party at the White House for top Democratic and Republican lawmakers. A spokesman says the president looks forward to building a working relationship, adding there's room to change the stimulus as it makes its way through the Senate. The president is also working to build public support for the measure. He met yesterday with about a dozen chief executives - most of them from high-tech companies like Google, Xerox, and IBM.

President BARACK OBAMA: These are people who make things, who hire people. They are on the frontlines in seeing the enormous problems in our economy right now.

HORSLEY: The president called it a "sober meeting" in a week in which big companies have announced more than 80,000 job cuts. Honeywell Chairman David Cote said afterwards the economic outlook is dire.

Mr. DAVID COTE (Chairman, Honeywell): No company is immune. Even if you feel you're going to do fine weathering the downturn, you have to think about your customers and your suppliers. The demand just isn't there and there's incredible fear. Everybody's just so concerned about what's going to happen next that things are just locking up.

HORSLEY: The stimulus package is designed to help unlock the economy. And Mr. Obama has spent much of his short time in office trying to build bipartisan support for the measure. He hopes to be able to sign the bill within the next few weeks.

President OBAMA: The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that their job will be next on the cutting blocks, they need help now. They are looking to Washington for action.

HORSLEY: As they did during the campaign, the Obama team is trying to keep their focus on long-term goals and avoid momentary distractions. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs shrugged off questions about whether the president's effort to reach across the aisle had failed. His answer: the game's not over yet.

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Spokesman): There will be a vote next week. There will be votes the weeks after that until we eventually have what we think will be a bipartisan proposal to get this economy moving again. I know we all have analysis to write, but let's not stop after the third inning and tell us who won in the ninth.

HORSLEY: President Obama said in his statement last night, the government must move swiftly and boldly and not allow the same partisan differences to get in its way. Earlier he joked about how a relatively small amount of ice had paralyzed Washington and closed his daughter's school. Mr. Obama called for a little "flinty Chicago toughness."

President OBAMA: As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never cancelled.

(Soundbite of laughter)

President OBAMA: In fact, my seven-year-old pointed out that you'd go outside for recess in weather like this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

President OBAMA: You wouldn't even stay indoors.

HORSLEY: Partisan differences in the Capitol may be thawing slowly. But even as he tries to break the ice, the president has his coat buttoned up, and he's pushing forward. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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