Obama Pushes Recovery Package to Some Critical Senate Democrats

By Fred Lucas | February 3, 2009 | 7:23 PM EST

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, flanked by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., left, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

White House (CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama met with Senate Democrats at the White House Monday, as the near $900-billion economic stimulus package appeared to be less of a sure thing than it was one week ago.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has expressed reservations about spending in the bill as too much pork, and he may not be the only member of his party with those concerns, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“There is considerable Democratic Senate unrest about this package,” McConnell told reporters Monday. McConnell wants the bill to focus more on the housing crisis and tax relief for the two lowest tax brackets.
Obama’s stimulus bill passed the House, but 11 Democrats joined with every House Republican in opposition to the legislation.  Obama has said he hopes to get Republican support for the bill in the Senate.
But the White House contends that talk about pork barrel spending is a tiny part of a package that includes spending for infrastructure and upgrading schools, which, overall, Democrats say will create at least 3 million jobs.
“I think what the president would tell Sen. Nelson and what he would tell any senator, and what he will tell Democrats that will come down to the White House later today: He’s satisfied we have the basis of a proposal that will save or create 3 to 4 million jobs and the American people can be confident of that,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.
Gibbs added that the total of what Republicans deemed as unnecessary spending added up to $699 million, which was about “seven-one hundredths of 1 percent. I know there is a tendency to focus on seven-one hundredths of 1 percent.”
“What Senator McConnell should do is look at the whole bill,” said Gibbs. “What Senator McConnell and others should do is talk to their constituents about what’s needed to get the economy moving again. Many of them will tell you it’s a blend of spending that will create jobs immediately -- spending that will ensure investments for long-term economic growth, as well as some tax cuts to put money back into the pockets of middle- class families and small business owners. A correct blend of that will get the economy moving again.”
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican and vice chairman of the National Governors Association, visited the White House Monday, and said that states desperately need the stimulus package.
“I know there are some differences of opinion on some of the elements -- and if I were writing it, it might be a little different,” Douglas said.  If you were writing it, it might be a little different.  But the essence of a recovery package is essential to get our nation's economy moving. … It's the kind of recession that is deep, that appears to be long, and the only way we're going to get the country moving again is a partnership between the states and the federal government.”