President-elect Obama appealed today for Congress to quickly pass his economic rescue package, but almost immediately members of Congress -- particularly fellow Democrats -- raised objections to parts of the massive program of tax breaks and public spending.
In laying out his case for what he's dubbed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, Obama warned during a speech at George Mason University in Virginia that failure to act now would mean a economic downturn that could "linger for years."
To read Obama's speech, click here.
It was a remarkable speech for someone who isn't president yet and hasn't revealed the details of his economic rescue plan.
But he put pressure on Congress to act quickly by describing the country's current fiscal situation as "a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime."
"If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years," Obama warned. "The unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four."
Obama has made clear he is hoping to have Congress approve by mid-Frebruary a gigantic spending plan his advisers have indicated might cost between $675 billion and $775 billion. Others insist it may cost more.
Obama and his economic team have described it as a mix of tax breaks for businesses and the middle class, and robust spending for public works, energy, health care and education, which he estimates will save or create 3 million jobs over the next few years.
The most pointed criticism of the plan came from Democrats who objected to Obama's plans to cut taxes for businesses and for middle class families.
They were especially critical of a proposed $3,000 tax credit for companies that hire or retrain workers, according to the Associated Press.
"If I'm a business person, it's unlikely if you give me a several-thousand-dollar credit that I'm going to hire people if I can't sell the products they're producing," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., a member of the Senate Finance Committee after a briefing on the Obama proposal. "That to me is just misdirected."
Sen John Kerry, D-Mass., said, "I'd rather spend the money on the infrastructure, on direct investment, on energy conversion, on other kinds of things that much more directly, much more rapidly and much more certainly create a real job."
Republican leaders surprisingly gave Obama's speech a warm reception.
"I think we are being listened to," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "I'm pleased with what the new president's had to say so far. I don't have any complaints about the communication at this stage."
McConnell said that Republicans have consulted with economists "who would be considered more conservative" and "each of them agreed with the president, the incoming president, that we need to do a stimulus."
McConnell said, however, the estimated $1.2 trillion deficit in the first year of Obama's administration is "eye popping," and that didn't include Obama's fiscal plan or spending for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"We have to find the right balance," said House Minority Leader John Boehner. "How much debt are we going to pile on future generations?"
Sen. Judd Gregg, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, also warned about deficit spending, saying the country is facing "a fiscal tsunami."