ABC News' Sunlen Miller Reports:
Speaking at the start of a bipartisan meeting in the Roosevelt Room, President Obama thanked the Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders for “moving forward very diligently” on the process of getting a recovery and renewal plan passed.
Obama himself admitted that there are still differences in opinion on the details of the plan on the Hill but said they are all unified by the reality of the dire economic situation they all have to deal with.
“I know that it is a heavily lift to do something as substantial as we're doing right now," said Obama. "I recognize that there are still some differences around the table and between the administration and the members of Congress about particular details on the plan. But what I think unifies this group is recognition that we are experiencing an unprecedented, perhaps, economic crisis that has to be dealt with and dealt with rapidly.”
Following the meeting, House Minority Leader John Boehner expressed some concern about the size and spending of the $825 billion dollar economic stimulus package.
“How you can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives -- how does that stimulate the economy,” Boehner questioned to reporters, “You can go through a whole host of issues in this bill that have nothing to do with growing jobs in America.”
Boehner was referencing a provision in the bill that Energy and Commerce marked up on Wednesday- that would now allow 50 states to offer Medicaid family planning service (like contraceptives) with the federal government’s $9-$1 match. Republicans say that whether or not this is good public policy it has nothing to do with an economic stimulus.
Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the bipartition meeting today was productive and moving towards the goal post to be on the president’s desk before President’s Day recess.
“The administration strikes me as open to our suggestions, and we made a number of them, both Senate and House leadership,” McConnell said, “I do think we'll be able to meet the president's deadline of getting the package to him by mid-February."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated that the was significant discussion within today’s meeting about the CBO numbers --- which concluded that only $26 billion out of $358 billion in infrastructure and other appropriated spending would be delivered into the economy by the end of the budget year.
Reid said that OMB director Peter Orszag explained to the group today that the CBO study only analyzed 40% of the bill.
“He said he would guarantee that at least 75 percent of the bill would go directly into the economy within the first 18 months,” Reid said of Orszag's prognosis.
Leader Reid said he is not worried about Republicans blocking the plan and seconded the confidence expressed that the bill would be ready for the President’s signature by mid-February – a sentiment that the President backed up during the meeting as well.