Obama seeks GOP help on economy

January 27, 2009 10:37:01 PM PST
One week since taking office, the new president is now knee-deep in the partisan business of getting things done in Washington. He went to Capitol Hill to sell his massive economic bailout package to Republicans. But there aren't many takers.

The president has the votes he needs, but not the votes he'd like to have.

House Democrats don't need Republican approval to pass the $825 billion stimulus package. But the appearance of unity is important to President Obama, so he was back on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, to try and win Republican support.

"There are some legitimate philosophical differences with part 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," said President Obama.

Among the biggest items:

  • $185 billion in tax cuts for the middle class over the next ten years.
  • $37 billion to build up the nations IT infrastructure.
  • $87 billion to shore up Medicaid.
  • $79 billion for schools.
  • $30 billion for highways and bridges, compared to $10 billion for public transit.

    Urban planning expert and UC economist Thomas Davidoff believes that's backwards.

    "Well as a resident of Oakland for example or the Bay Area, what do you want to see it spent on, well mass transit right?" said Davidoff, Ph.D.

    Davidoff argues mass transit reduces congestion, discourages sprawl and cuts pollution.

    "And that's better for the environment than anything you can do to cars. Getting people out of cars is the best thing you can do for the environment," said Davidoff, Ph.D.

    In the tax payer funded Capitol studio, we put that issue to Oakland representative Barbara Lee.

    "I agree. We should have much more for public transit, but we should also have much more overall," said Lee.

    Lee says the price tag should be a trillion at least.

    "Do we need more yes, and so hopefully we'll be able to move forward when the bill gets onto the Senate side, and try to figure out a way to increase some of the funding for some of these very badly needed programs," said Lee.

    House Republicans say the spending is over the top.

    "The president did say that he has concerns over some of the proposed spending in this bill," said House Minority Leader (R) John Boehner

    The struggle looks like it could be between the White House and House Democrats, which could prove tricky, said ABC 7's Political Analyst Bruce Cain.

    "The House is a much more partisan body, the temptation to run things through without the consent of the opposition, that incentive is a lot stronger that temptation is a lot stronger. So I think that's going to be a real challenge on the House side," said Cain, Ph.D.

    Professor Cain is right, judging from what Congresswoman Lee told ABC7. She believes Democrats have given all they're going to. The bill is up for a vote in the House on Wednesday.


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