(Recasts lead with Monday meeting, adds details)
By Donna Smith
WASHINGTON Jan 2 Both President-elect Barack
Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will huddle with
Democratic and Republican congressional leaders on Monday to
try to advance a huge economic stimulus bill that Obama hopes
can be enacted quickly, despite Republican reservations.
Leadership aides in Congress said the meeting is set to
begin around 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) on Monday.
But in the runup to the meeting, Republicans on Capitol
Hill were warning their Democratic counterparts that
legislation to improve the worsening U.S. economy should not
spend too much money on government-funded projects and should
not be rushed through Congress without adequate review.
Democrats have been hoping to deliver the plan -- which
could cost $675 billion to $775 billion or more -- to Obama on
Jan. 20, the day he becomes president, or shortly thereafter.
The newly elected Congress is to be sworn in on Tuesday --
two weeks before Obama. Hearings could push a final package
well into February.
The Democrats, who have a majority in Congress, want the
economic stimulus to include tax relief for the middle class
and spending on schools, roads and other infrastructure.
States, which increasingly are having difficulties paying
health care costs for the poor, also would get federal money.
But Republicans have voiced concern about possible waste
and say the tab could reach $1 trillion.
"I am concerned by media reports that suggest the
Democrats' emerging proposal may cost taxpayers up to 1
trillion in new government spending, with little debate or
public scrutiny of the still-unseen legislation," House
Republican Leader John Boehner said in a statement on Friday.
"Let's be clear: it is essential that this legislation be
debated in a fair, open, and honest way," he said.
At least five Democratic governors say $1 trillion is
necessary. The five, from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts,
Ohio and Wisconsin, said on a conference call on Friday they
would like the package to include $250 billion for education
funding, $250 billion for social services such as the Medicaid
health insurance program, and $500 billion for infrastructure.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said infrastructure should
be defined to include public housing, the power grid, and
electronic medical records as well as roads and bridges.
Although the Democrats increased their majority in the
100-member Senate in the November election, they still need
Republican support to advance legislation.
A Senate Republican aide, who asked not to be identified,
said Democrats could gain stronger, bipartisan support with an
economic stimulus measure costing less -- about $500 billion.
Global financial markets rallied on Friday, partly due to
hope that a stimulus bill will move through Congress soon.
The meeting with Obama and Biden would include nine leaders
from the Senate and House of Representatives, including House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,
both Democrats. Republicans attending would include Boehner and
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, aides said.
The discussions would be the first opportunity for the
bipartisan leadership to meet with the president-elect and
would cover other issues besides the economy, one aide said.
Boehner said in his statement he hoped Monday's gathering
would be the first of many bipartisan meetings on challenges
facing the the United States.
Republicans said although their numbers in the Senate and
House were depleted in the election that brought Obama to
power, they would not rubber-stamp a huge new spending plan.
"We hope that Democrats in Congress don't attempt to shut
the American taxpayer out of this process by trying to pass a
bill that hasn't been the subject of bipartisan review and that
hasn't been available for public inspection," McConnell said in
a statement on Friday.
He and Boehner have called for extensive hearings to
scrutinize the economic plan.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Lisa Lambert in
Washington and Deborah Charles in Chicago, editing by Patricia