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Obama seeks congressional consensus on stimulus plan

President Barack Obama pressed congressional leaders Friday to reach a consensus on an $825-billion stimulus plan, warning the country may be facing an "unprecedented" economic crisis.

Obama said that, while there are "some differences" between his administration and lawmakers on the details, the legislation is "on target" for passage by mid-February.

"We are experiencing an unprecedented, perhaps, economic crisis that has to be dealt with," Obama said as he began a meeting with nine Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House. He also called for greater oversight of spending by financial institutions that get bailout money.

The administration and Congress are confronted with a weakening economy and eroding investments. Average home prices in November dropped 8.7 percent from a year earlier, the most in at least 18 years, the government said Friday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was among those in the meeting, said afterward that lawmakers expect to get the legislation to Obama's desk before the Feb. 16 Presidents Day holiday, when Congress is scheduled to take a break. "If not, there will be no recess," she said.

The legislation crafted by House Democrats includes $358 billion for public works projects, $192 billion in other spending and $275 billion in tax cuts. The Senate has begun work on part of its version of the stimulus plan, which includes $275 billion in tax provisions, including cuts for businesses. Some Democrats also are pressing to speed up infrastructure spending.

Republicans, meanwhile, want deeper tax cuts and doubt that new federal spending for roads and bridges can be pumped into the economy quickly enough to do any good.

Republican leaders said they are pleased by the tone of the meeting and the willingness of Obama and the Democrats to listen to their ideas.

"I do think we'll be able to meet the president's deadline," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said after the meeting.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said he remains concerned about the size of the spending portion of the stimulus plan and whether the money will be used wisely.

"At this point, we believe spending nearly $1 trillion is more than we need to be putting on the backs of our kids and their kids," he said. Stimulus, anyone? The Democrats' plan:

Costs $825 billion

Proposes $550 billion in spending

Offers $275 billion in tax cuts

Directs benefits toward lower-income workers, even those who do not pay income taxes.

Proposes a tax cut of $500 for individuals earning up to $75,000 and $1,000 for families earning up to $150,000.

The Republicans' plan:

Helps all income taxpayers with families getting an average of $1,700 in savings.

Proposes cutting the lowest two income tax brackets, from 15 percent to 10 percent and from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Offers small businesses a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income.

Eliminates taxes on unemployment benefits.


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