Mon, Feb 02, 2009 - Page 1 News List

President Obama seeks support for economic package


US President Barack Obama sought to rally support for his emerging economic rescue package on Saturday as he stood by his latest Cabinet nominee to run into tax problems that could impede confirmation.

Obama, in his second weekly radio address since taking office, pledged to help lower Americans’ mortgage costs under a new plan to be unveiled soon to help revive the financial system and “get credit flowing again.”

An administration official said the roll-out of the plan was on track in response to a CNN report saying its announcement was being pushed back because of its complex nature.

Obama’s finance team is working on a plan to stem huge losses at banks caused by toxic assets.

So far, about half the US$700 billion of the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program has been used up since it was rushed out late last year.

Even as he moved to confront the economic crisis, Obama was facing a new political distraction — the disclosure that Tom Daschle, picked to spearhead US health care reform, failed to pay more than US$128,000 in taxes.

It was the latest glitch in Obama’s effort to complete his Cabinet and focus on priorities including a mid-February target for Congress to pass an economic stimulus bill with more than US$800 billion in tax cuts and spending.

The White House said Obama expected Daschle, a former Senate Democratic majority leader, to be confirmed by the Senate as secretary of health and human services.

With the recession and financial crisis topping his agenda, Obama urged the Senate to approve the stimulus bill that the House of Representatives passed this week.

Obama last week won passage of the US$825 billion stimulus plan in the House without a single Republican vote. Next it heads to the Senate, where Vice President Joe Biden predicted the measure would fare better among Republicans.

The Democratic president does not need Republicans for his economic plan and other initiatives to clear the Democratic-controlled Congress, but he has said he wants to get away from politics as usual and introduce a new era of bipartisanship.

Obama appeared to be leaning toward appointing a third Republican to his Cabinet, placing the fiscally conservative Senator Judd Gregg at the head of the Commerce Department.

Gregg is the leading candidate for the job, an Obama administration official said on Saturday.

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