President Barack Obama walks back to the Oval Office on Tuesday after a trip to Capitol Hill to meet House and Senate Republicans for talks on the stimulus package.AP photo
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama met face-to-face Tuesday with congressional Republicans who have been chafing over parts of a $825 billion plan to pull the country out of recession, and he urged lawmakers to “keep politics to a minimum” and quickly approve the measure.
“The statistics every day underscore the urgency of the economic situation. The American people expect action,” the new Democratic president said in brief remarks between private meetings with House and Senate Republicans at the Capitol. “I don’t expect 100 percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people’s business right now.”
The president made his first trip to Capitol Hill since his inauguration a week ago, aides said, to listen to concerns from Republicans who have been threatening to oppose the measure over what they call insufficient tax cuts and excessive spending.
The House is to vote on the White House-backed measure today, and Senate committees began their own deliberations over it on Tuesday. Congressional leaders have pledged to have the bill on Obama’s desk by mid-February. He is hoping for bipartisan support on his top priority of economic recovery.
After the back-to-back House and Senate meetings, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters: “I think we will have Republican support for this bill.” He didn’t say how much, but added: “We’ll take what we can get” when the House votes.
Gibbs didn’t say whether Obama made any concessions to Republicans, only that the president listened to the GOP’s concerns.
The political maneuvering surrounding the stimulus legislation has become intense, only one week into his tenure.
Even so, he called the House meeting “very constructive” and Republican leaders seemed to agree, though none signaled they were ready to sign on to the measure the House is to vote on Wednesday.
“I think we both share a sincere belief that we have to have a plan that works,” House GOP leader John Boehner said. “The president is sincere in wanting to work with us, wanting to here our ideas and find some common ground.”