By Foon Rhee, Globe Staff
President Obama hit Capitol Hill today to lobby for his economic recovery plan, but even before he arrived he'd heard it from all sides.
Just before meeting with House Republicans, the Associated Press reported that their leaders delivered a closed-door appeal to oppose the package. Representative John Boehner of Ohio, the GOP leader, and Eric Cantor of Virginia, his second-in-command, told the rank and file that the $825 billion plan contains too much wasteful spending that will not revive the economy, the AP says.
At the same time, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, urged Congress to "act soon – and decisively."
It would be impossible to overstate the trouble our economy is in," Sweeney said at a gathering organized by Americans United for Change, a progressive advocacy group. "We are losing jobs at a rate of half a million a month, real wages have been stagnant for far too long, and our housing and financial markets are in crisis. Every week that goes by brings more bad news, and every week that Congress does not act, the economic hole we are in becomes deeper and more difficult to get out of."
"We can always find ways to disagree with each other – and certainly those of us here today have had plenty of disagreements in the past and will have plenty in the future. But we cannot afford to let ideological differences kill or gut this economic recovery package. There is too much at stake," he added.
Obama talked to reporters after the meeting with House Republicans and said:
"We had a very constructive meeting with the House members, members of the Republican Caucus. I'm a little bit late for my Senate colleagues -- former Senate colleagues.
"And the main message I have is that the statistics every day underscore the urgency of the economic situation. The American people expect action. They want us to put together a recovery package that puts people back to work, that creates investments that assure our long-term energy independence, an effective health care system, an education system that works; they want our infrastructure rebuilt, and they want it done wisely, so that we're not wasting taxpayer money.
"As I explained to the Republican House Caucus, and I'll explain to my former Senate colleagues, the recovery package that we have proposed and is moving its way through Congress is just one leg in a multi-legged stool. We're still going to have to have much better financial regulation, we've got to get credit flowing again, we're going to have to deal with the troubled assets that many banks are still carrying and that make the -- that have locked up the credit system. We're going to have to coordinate with other countries, because we now have a global problem.
"I am absolutely confident that we can deal with these issues, but the key right now is to make sure that we keep politics to a minimum. There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have, and I respect that. In some cases they may just not be as familiar with what's in the package as I would like. I don't expect a hundred 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."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.