Senate passes economic recovery plan

February 10, 2009 1:19:24 PM PST
President Barack Obama hailed the Senate's passage of a massive economic rescue plan on Tuesday but warned that there's more work to do as lawmakers begin difficult talks on a final deal. "That's good news," the president said repeatedly in announcing the Senate's action to a Florida crowd, as people jumped to their feet and cheered in joy.

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Still, Obama soberly cautioned: "We've got a little more work to do."

The Senate, with support from just three Republicans, passed an $838 billion stimulus bill, and now House and Senate negotiators will have to work out the final details.

The vote came right in the middle of Obama's town-hall event in Fort Myers, a Florida community reeling from home foreclosures and job losses.

Revving up the home crowd even more, Obama joked that senators advanced their plan because they knew he was coming to Florida. He said: "They didn't want folks in Fort Myers to be mad."

Back in Washington, on a day loaded with economic news, the Treasury Department announced a sweeping plan to rescue the nation's banking sector.

Obama was lobbying Congress hard from Florida, declaring that Americans are out of patience with Washington gridlock as lawmakers dicker over legislative details.

Actually, one senator, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, a Republican, accused colleagues of moving too fast on the bill.

Said Obama: "We've had a good debate. That's part of what democracy is all about. But the time for talking is over. Folks here in Fort Myers and across America need help, they need action, and they need it now."

He also announced that he will unveil an "overall housing strategy" in the weeks ahead, but he's already looking at ways to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Obama told the audience that there needs to be a system in which banks recognize that it's in their best interest not to foreclose on homes.

Obama called for Democrats and Republicans to work together as he appeared at a town hall forum, his second in as many days.

"This is not about partisan politics," Republican Gov. Charlie Crist said in introducing the Democratic president. "This is about rising above that."

Trying to strike the same tone, Obama thanked Crist, saying: "When the town is burning, you don't check party labels. Everybody needs to grab a hose."

Still, buoyed by his own popularity and the nation's desire for help, Obama clearly used the stage to put pressure on Republican lawmakers.

Obama's overt message is that the pain being felt in American homes demands Washington's quick and bold attention. But his more subtle message, delivered through his choice of hard-hit but GOP-leaning locales and in the kind of sarcastic barbs he lobbed at Republicans in his prime-time news conference, was a nakedly political one: Republicans may well pay in voting booths for ignoring the president's call to pass the stimulus.

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