Obama Touts Stimulus Package in Radio Address

Posted January 3, 2009 at 7:00am

Amid push-back from senior Congressional Republicans, President-elect Barack Obama is using his Saturday radio address to make another pitch for his economic stimulus plan, CongressNow reports. But he is not offering many more substantive details than those that have already been disclosed. “To build a 21st-century economy, we must engage contractors across the nation to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges and schools,” Obama said in the address. “To save not only jobs, but money and lives, we will update and computerize our health care system to cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes and help reduce health care costs by billions of dollars each year. To make America, and our children, a success in this new global economy, we will build 21st-century classrooms, labs and libraries.” On Friday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed concerns about the size and scope of the stimulus package, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. Boehner said his concerns include the size of the package – as much as $1 trillion, though other estimates have it at half that size – and the possibility that such spending efforts will not stimulate the economy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday also called for more time to review the proposed stimulus. In a statement issued earlier in the week, McConnell said, “I understand the Democrat leadership would like to move this as-yet unwritten, trillion-dollar spending bill in less than two weeks, [but] it has not yet been explained how the spending bill can receive adequate oversight and review in such a short period of time.” Obama said in the address that he believes such concerns can be assuaged. “I am optimistic that if we come together to seek solutions that advance not the interests of any party, or the agenda of any one group, but the aspirations of all Americans, then we will meet the challenges of our time just as previous generations have met the challenges of theirs,” he said. While additional details are expected to emerge in the coming days, the package seeks to create 3 million new jobs both by injecting spending into the economy and cutting taxes. The plan also intends to increase the nation’s economic competitiveness going forward. The plan is expected to focus heavily on providing funds to shore up the country’s infrastructure and offer incentives for renewable energy production, including making public buildings more energy-efficient. House and Senate Democratic aides told CongressNow this week that the plan will also include an increase in the federal Medicaid contribution known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, increased funding for doctors and hospitals to adopt health information technologies, expanded health coverage for the unemployed, and reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Tax breaks for individuals and families are also expected to be part of the equation. Obama did not offer tax-related specifics in his address either, but Congressional and lobbying sources say that changes will likely come from marginal rate cuts reflected in paychecks, effectively boosting take-home pay. However, some lawmakers continue to push for rebate checks. On Monday, Obama is scheduled to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss the plan’s specifics. The president-elect is then slated to meet with Republican leaders. On Wednesday, Democratic leaders are planning to hear testimony from economists about what strategies should be enacted to help boost the ailing economy. Originally, Democratic leaders hoped to have the stimulus package ratified by Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20. That timetable could still work in the House, where the majority party has distinct advantages in passing its agenda. But in the Senate, Republicans have just enough Members to slow progress and possibly force changes in the quest for 60 votes.