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Obama to announce his top economic team

CHICAGO (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday prepared to announce his top economic team as he worked on a stimulus plan designed to lift the country out of its worst financial crisis in decades.

President-elect Barack Obama walks into the University of Chicago Lab School with secret service agents to play a pickup basketball game in Chicago, Illinois November 23, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes

With top Democrats talking about a package in the hundreds of billions of dollars, a top aide to Obama hinted the campaign promise to repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy might be delayed.

Obama went to his daily workout at the gym on Sunday but otherwise stayed out of sight as he prepared for the announcement a 11 a.m. CST (12:00 p.m. EST) on Monday of the people who will lead his administration’s efforts to revive the economy.

The names for the two top jobs became known over the weekend -- Timothy Geithner, 47, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, as treasury secretary, and Lawrence Summers, 53, a former treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, as director of the National Economic Council.

The two Clinton-era veterans have worked closely together and command wide respect in financial markets. In fact, when word leaked out about Geithner on Friday, U.S. stock prices rallied more than 6 percent.

In addition, Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, is expected to be tapped soon by Obama as the White House budget director.

Obama has called for an aggressive two-year economic stimulus package that would include middle-class tax cuts and spending on projects like roads and bridges. He said he wants it soon after taking office on January 20.

Although he will not be president for two more months, Obama’s team was working with Democrats in Congress to fashion a plan they can tackle quickly.

Obama has not put a price tag on the package. In October, he mentioned $175 billion as a figure but the economy has worsened a great deal since then and leading congressional Democrats were talking much bigger numbers on Sunday.

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$500 BILLION TO $700 BILLION

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, put the figure at between $500 billion and $700 billion and said he thought the plan could be ready by the time Obama becomes president.

“I think it has to be deep,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, mentioned “several hundred billion” dollars on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

While Obama and the Democrats were talking about tax cuts for the low- and middle-income groups, top advisers to the president-elect hinted the campaign promise to repeal tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 may be scrapped.

Instead of seeking the immediate repeal, Obama could just allow the tax breaks sought by President George W. Bush to expire as planned at the end of 2010.

David Axelrod, the Obama campaign strategist who was chosen to be a senior White House adviser, was asked on “Fox News Sunday” if the tax cuts could be allowed to expire.

“Those considerations will be made,” he said.

Bill Daley, an adviser to Obama and Clinton’s commerce secretary, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the 2010 scenario “looks more likely than not.”

That would indicate Obama may be wary of imposing any additional tax burden at a time of deep crisis. Plus, he may need Republican support for his recovery measures and Democrats would not have to vote on raising taxes.

“We’re working with the Obama team, and we expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president’s consideration when he takes office,” House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Additional reporting by Caren Bohan and Randall Mikkelsen; Writing by David Wiessler; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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