Obama Stresses Urgency for Stimulus Bill

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CBNNews.com - WASHINGTON - Both Republican and Democrat Senate moderates are working to cut as much as $100 billion from economic stimulus legislation and clear the way for the bill's passage.

The group of senators met privately, and later said they had made progress toward an accord.

Senate Democratic leaders said they hoped for passage of the legislation by Friday, and prospects appeared to hinge on agreement to a series of changes that would trim the size of a bill costing well over $920 billion.

"The president made a strong case for a proposal that would be in the neighborhood of $800 billion," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

With the economy showing fresh signs of weakness, Obama said Thursday, "The time for talk is over. The time for action is now."

President Obama says the failure to pass his economic stimulus package quickly could lead to a financial catastrophe. At the same time, he acknowledges that the bill can be improved.

"No plan is perfect and we should work to make it stronger. No one is more committed to making it stronger than me. Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the essential," he said.

The president is targeting a group of about six Republicans in hopes of pushing the bill through the Senate. He met with them in the White House Wednesday.

"He said that he understands it needs to be scrubbed and he's prepared to be receptive to the ideas," Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine said.

One of those GOP ideas has already passed. The Senate voted Wednesday night to give a tax break of up to $15,000 to homebuyers in hopes of boosting the slumping housing industry.

Republicans say the housing mess is at the root of the ongoing financial crisis.

"Until we get into housing, we won't solve this problem," Sen. Mel Martinez, R-FL. said.

Republicans would like to see more tax cuts in the bill, and to trim the overall price tag down from the current cost that's over $900 billion dollars and climbing.

To help accomplish that, they want to cut what they consider unnecessary spending that would not stimulate the economy. High on that list are projects that would provide $335 million to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and $25 million to rehabilitate trails for all-terrain vehicles.

"Unfortunately, Democrats just keep throwing more money on top of an already incredibly bloated bill. At some point we're going to have to learn to say 'no,'"  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY. said.

The Senate has also voted to weaken a "buy American" provision that was included in the bill. Republicans and President Obama pushed to soften the bill over fears it would spark a trade war with Europe and harm the economy.

"The President of the United States said that this would be a mistake right now," Sen. John McCain, R-AZ. said. "It sends a message to the world that the United States is going back to protectionism."

In an editorial in today's Washington Post, President Obama warns that failure to pass the stimulus soon could lead to an irreversible recession.

But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that the bill would be helpful in the short term, but actually hurt the economy in the long run. It's now up to the Senate to make their call.

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Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News Reporter

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