Obama Defends Tax Cuts in Stimulus

Posted January 11, 2009 at 10:23am

President-elect Barack Obama Sunday sought to quell growing concerns among Congressional Democrats about his economic stimulus proposal, emphasizing that the “bulk” of the program is spending rather than tax cuts.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Obama said it was necessary to include tax cuts in the plan because there are “only so many projects” that can be funded to have a short-term stimulative effect. While agreeing with Democrats that spending measures give stronger push to the economy, Obama said some tax cuts — such as speeding business depreciation allowances to promote private spending — also are effective.

Amid signs that Members will seek aggressively to put their own imprint on the deal and are concerned that Obama is being somewhat high-handed in his approach, the president-elect today noted Congress is “a co-equal branch” of government. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told several news outlets including Roll Call that he does not “work for,” but “with” Obama.

“We’re not trying to jam anything down people’s throats,” Obama said. But the incoming president continued to emphasize that he wants lawmakers to move quickly on the economic package, and he applauded a vow by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the House will not adjourn for the February recess if the legislation is not complete.

Obama acknowledged that, given the exploding deficit, he will have to scale back some of his campaign promises, noting he will not be able to move as quickly as he would like. And he said all will have to sacrifice something as he seeks to get the deficit under control. “Everybody’s going to have to give,” he said. And he said he was confident that his choice for attorney general, Eric Holder, will be confirmed, despite growing questions from Republicans about the designee’s role in former President Clinton’s pardoning of Mark Rich, and other matters. The Senate begins its hearings on Holder later this week.

In response to a question from his children — relayed by Stephanopoulos — Obama also remarked that he is narrowing in on selecting a First Dog, saying, “This has been tougher than finding a Commerce Secretary.”

In a separate interview on Fox News Sunday, recorded earlier this week, President George W. Bush offered praise for Obama’s approach so far, commending his choices for advisers and saying that Obama had acted decisively in choosing them. Bush also said he is going to write a book having to do with his experiences as president, perhaps focusing on his toughest decisions and the “context” in which he made them.