Obama leans on new economic team for 'jolt'

CHICAGO -- President-elect Barack Obama asked his new economic team Monday to design the specifics of a major stimulus package that can "jolt the economy back into shape."

Democratic allies, such as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have said the economic crisis requires a stimulus package in the range of $500 billion to $700 billion. Its goals would include creating jobs and stimulating consumer spending through programs to build roads and bridges, modernize schools and develop alternative sources of energy.

Obama would not get very specific, saying "it's important for my economic team to come back with a recommendation."

"I'm not going to discuss numbers right now," Obama said after nominating New York Federal Reserve Bank president Timothy Geithner to be Treasury secretary. He appointed former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers to head his National Economic Council.

Since his election three weeks ago, Obama has spent most of his days behind closed doors. Now, he is taking a higher public profile. Obama plans another news conference today, again to discuss the economy. He is scheduled to announce his choices for national security positions after Thanksgiving.

As he puts together his team, Obama says he wants to be in a position "to hit the ground running" when he is inaugurated Jan. 20. At the same time, he does not want to be seen as taking too much responsibility, saying frequently there is only "one president at a time."

Obama also tapped University of California-Berkeley economist Christina Romer and senior campaign adviser Melody Barnes for his team. Romer will chair the Council of Economic Advisers, while Barnes will lead the Domestic Policy Council.

Obama said the economic team will consult with members of Congress, the Bush administration, the Federal Reserve, business people, and "thinkers across the country" as they develop plans. He wants the new — and more Democratic — Congress to take up a stimulus package when they reconvene on Jan. 6. Obama will be sworn in as the nation's 44th president two weeks later.

Republicans said they want to work with Obama but warned against excessive spending. House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Americans "do not believe increasing government spending is the best way to put our economy back on track." He proposed lower taxes, such as "rebuilding 401(k)s" by eliminating the capital gains tax.

On a related matter, Obama said he was "surprised" that the nation's leading automakers did not produce "a better-thought-out-proposal" when they went before Congress last week. He said the nation cannot allow the auto industry to "vanish," given the many businesses that support the automakers would also be hurt.

Obama met with reporters shortly after President Bush briefed him on the $20 billion bailout for Citigroup. The president-elect said the news "made it even more clear that we are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions."