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UPDATE 1-Obama: Economy faces catastrophe without stimulus

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va., Feb 5 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Thursday to pass a massive fiscal stimulus package, saying the economy would face “catastrophe” without it.

Aiming to build support for the plan that has been criticized by Republicans, Obama also sharpened his rhetoric against his critics.

Obama spoke as the Democratic-led Senate abruptly halted debate on a $920 billion version of the plan on Thursday night. Lawmakers said they would resume work on Friday.

In a reference to Republicans, Obama told a gathering of House of Representatives Democrats that his critics were offering “tired arguments” for economic solutions that emphasized tax cuts for well-off families.

Obama said he valued “constructive criticism.”

“But what I have also said is, don’t come to the table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped to create this crisis,” he added.

Republicans have taken aim at spending provisions in the stimulus bill, such as money to promote the arts that they say would do little to stimulate the economy but would bloat the deficit.

Obama said the bill would go a long way toward helping the economy in the near term and would further some long-term goals, such as improving infrastructure and offering incentives for the use of alternative energy.

“If we do not move swiftly to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an economy that is already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe,” Obama said.

He linked congressional Republicans to the policies of former President George W. Bush’s administration.

“We are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin,” he said. (Additional reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Peter Cooney)