Obama's Middle Class Tax Cut May Not Survive Budget

Obama said he was "confident" that the budget outline that will pass Congress will contain a blueprint for his principles on health care, energy and education reform and today, lawmakers resonated that confidence too, saying they play to include those provisions in the budget.

Economy Takes Center Stage

More than half of the 50-minute prime-time news conference was dedicated to the economy. Among the 13 questions reporters posed to him, none were about Iraq or Afghanistan -- a subject that dominated President George W. Bush's news conferences.

"I want to give everyone who's watching tonight an update on the steps we're taking to move this economy from recession to recovery, and ultimately to prosperity," Obama said in his 10-minute opening statement.

With his staff looking on as the president delivered his remarks in the East Room of the White House, Obama told Americans that with jobs, interest rates and lending, glimmers of hope appear on the horizon.

"We're beginning to see signs of progress," he said.

For every action his administration has taken, he described a positive economic result that had resulted from it so far. Some of the "signs of progress" he tied to his economic plans: The recovery plan has created jobs and provided a tax cut that 95 percent of Americans will start seeing in their paycheck by April 1; the administration's housing plan has led to a jump in refinancings; and restarting the flow of credit to families and businesses has already secured more lending in the last week than in four months combined, the president said.

The economy no doubt was the highlight of the news conference.

Even when asked by ABC News' Ann Compton whether race had played any role so far in the first 64 days of his historic presidency, Obama sang one note.

"I think that the last 64 days have been dominated by me trying to figure out how we're going to fix the economy, and that affects black, brown and white," he said.

He said that on Inauguration Day there was "justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step to move us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination" in the country but "that lasted about a day."

President Obama occasionally showed flashes of irritation when pressed on the delay in his response to the AIG bonus controversy.

"It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I am talking about before I speak," the president said in response to a question on why the state of New York seemed to be taking quicker action on AIG than the White House.

On Wednesday, the president is expected to send a draft legislation to the Hill that gives the Treasury more power to take over large financial institutions in serious trouble.

President Obama said his philosophy was persistence.

"You look back four years from now, I think, hopefully, people will judge that body of work and say, 'This is [a] big ocean liner; it's not a speedboat. It doesn't turn around immediately, but we're in a better -- better place because of the decisions that we made,'" he said.

Economy on President Obama's Mind

Even amid the optimism, President Obama cautioned Americans that recovery will take time and he called for continued patience from a recession-weary nation.

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