President Barack Obama asked the nation today to "hold my administration accountable" for the results of the economic stimulus package up for a House vote next week.
Amid a familiar rundown of arguments for the proposed $825 billion stimulus package -- which has yet to receive the vote of a single Republican in the two committees that considered the legislation -- Obama inserted new language addressing skeptics.
"I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan," he said in a video address on the White House Web site. "I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan must and will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable for these results.
"We will launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new Web site called recovery.gov."
In a bipartisan meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders Friday, Obama stressed the urgency of swiftly passing the economic stimulus package for the good of the American people and as a matter of political expediency.
"Look, we are all political animals here. If we don't do this, we may lose seats. I may not be re-elected," Obama said, according to a source in the meeting. "But none of that's going to matter if we don't pass this because the economy will be in a crisis and the American people will be hurting."
The president on Friday brought leaders of both parties into the Roosevelt room of the White House, hoping to gain support from GOP leadership and push the plan through.
"I recognize that there are still some differences around the table and between the administration and members of Congress about, particularly, details on the plan," Obama said. "What I think unifies this group is a recognition that we are experiencing an unprecedented, perhaps, economic crisis that has to be dealt with, and dealt with rapidly."
Obama expressed optimism that, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Democrats were "on target" for their President's Day time frame for passage of the plan.
In his address today, Obama said he would lift a "veil of secrecy" that has shrouded previous federal payouts to shore up the economy.
"We won't just throw money at our problems – we'll invest in what works," he said. "Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible."
House Republicans, who say they have barely been consulted on the stimulus package, came to Friday's meeting prepared. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., and House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, brought handouts to the meeting to share their set of specific suggestions for the package being debated on Capitol Hill.
Republican leaders would like to make changes to the tax cuts in the stimulus package, framing it as a way to pick up GOP votes. They also suggested making unemployment benefits tax-free, allowing tax deductions for small businesses equal to 20 percent of income, and allowing businesses to carry losses from one year to another.
After discussion of Cantor's ideas, Obama weighed in, saying "Eric, I don't see anything crazy here."