Archive for February, 2009

Obama Inagural Congress Speech February 24, 2009

February 25, 2009

www.cnn.com

In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, Obama said it’s time to act boldly not just to revive the economy, but “to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.”

“While the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater,” he said.

The president struck an optimistic tone, asserting that “we will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”

Obama focused on the three priorities of the budget he will present to Congress later this week: energy, health care and education.

The president said he sees his budget as a “vision for America — as a blueprint for our future,” but not something that will solve every problem or address every issue.

“It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited — a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession,” he said.

Obama said his administration already has identified $2 trillion in government spending cuts that can be made over the next decade.

Obama also pledged a “historic commitment” to health care and said the recovery plan could lead to a cure for cancer. He also promised the “largest investment ever” in preventive care.

On education, Obama set a goal of having the highest college graduation rate in the world by 2020.

He pointed to the billions for education — from early childhood education expansion to college-loan programs — in the economic stimulus package to ensure that every child has access to education “from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.”

Obama also said his budget will pay for more soldiers and Marines, increase their pay and expand veterans health care and benefits.

Obama said the recovery plans already in the works are immediate steps to revive the economy in the short-term, “but the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world.”

“Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover,” he said, asking Congress to join him in “doing whatever proves necessary because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession.”

Obama promised to reform the regulatory system to “ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again.”

The president also signaled that he was willing to take on entitlements, saying that Congress must take on the growing costs of Medicare and Social Security.

Obama described the nation’s financial woes as a “reckoning” for poor decisions made by both government and individuals.

“A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future,” Obama said.

“Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.”

Noting that is easy to “become cynical and doubtful,” Obama said he has learned that “hope is found in unlikely places.”

Obama avoided lofty rhetoric and instead used examples of specific people to personalize his points.

He mentioned Leonard Abess and Ty’Sheoma Bethea — two of the Obamas’ invited guests.

While the economy was the focus of the speech, Obama also touched on foreign policy.

The president said he’ll soon be laying out specifics on how to win the war in Afghanistan and end the one in Iraq.

“We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, both Afghanistan and its border with Pakistan will remain a key focus.

PART I

PART II

PART III

PART IV

PART V

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Sa nu Uitam

February 22, 2009

Amintiri (The Best)

February 22, 2009

Bill Clinton: I should have better regulated derivatives

February 16, 2009

clinton

www.cnn.com

Former President Bill Clinton was in Austin, Texas, over the weekend to host the Clinton Global Initiative University, which encourages college students and administrators to come up with creative ways to address global issues.

CNN’s John Roberts sat down with Clinton to ask him about how the Obama administration is performing, how his wife, Hillary Clinton, is doing as secretary of state, and what responsibility he may have for the current financial crisis.

John Roberts: Mr. President, in terms of the overall economic downturn, Time magazine had an article out this week in which it named 25 of the people most responsible for the economic downturn, and you were there. They, they had a picture of you in what looked like a police lineup. They had a little button where you could vote who’s the most responsible? They pointed to your signing of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. I wonder what you think about that.

Former President Bill Clinton: I think that the only thing that our administration did or didn’t do that we should have done is to try to set in motion some more formal regulation of the derivatives market. They’re wrong in saying that the elimination of the Glass-Steagall division between banks and investment banks contributed to this. Investment banks were already…banks were already doing investment business and investment companies were already in the banking business. The bill I signed actually at least puts some standards there. And if you look at the evidence of the banks that have gotten in trouble, the ones that were most directly involved in there … in a diversified portfolio tended to do better.

Some of the conservatives said that I was responsible because I enforced the Community Reinvestment Act, and they said that’s what made all these subprime mortgages be issued. That’s also false. The community banks, the people that loan their money in the community instead of buying these esoteric securities, they’re doing quite well.

Roberts: So what’s your take on what Sen. [John] McCain said, that [President] Obama is off to a terrible start?

Clinton: I just disagree with him, but we have a different economic philosophy. For example, there’s 100 economic studies which show that you get a better return in terms of economic growth on extending unemployment benefits or investing money in energy conservation jobs to improve buildings than you do giving people in my income group a tax cut. But it doesn’t stop them. Those guys are on automatic. You punch a button and they give the answer they give you. There are a lot of tax cuts in that bill — for middle-class families, for lower-income families. There’s a $7,500 tax credit that will kick in when these plug-in electric vehicles go on the market, which could help us to become the world’s leader in that and secure us jobs for a decade or more.

Roberts: Do you really think the president can change Washington? Can he bring the type of change to Washington that he campaigned on? He’s already up against a wall against the Republicans in Congress — not quite as big a wall as you found yourself up against in 1993, but he does seem to be having some difficulty. Do you think he really can bring change to Washington?

Clinton: Here’s what I think will happen. I think that as we go along, if the American people stick with him and if he begins to have good results, then I think more and more Republicans will cooperate with him because they will see that he’s right or because he carried their states or for any number of reasons.

Roberts: How long do you think he has?

Clinton: First, his next big challenge is to come forward with the details of how we’re going to rewrite as many home mortgages as we can. How we’re going to take some of these bad assets off the banks’ books so they can get cleaned up and they can loan money and what conditions will we give more money to banks for. In other words, they’re going to have to loan money from now on. That’s what [Treasury] Secretary [Timothy] Geithner is working on. Those three things make a lot of sense. That’s our long-term answer.

Roberts: But how much time do you think he has? A hundred days, six months, a year, two years?

Clinton: The public, I believe, will support him at least for a year in trying to work these things out. And he’s been very straight forward in saying it might take as much as two years for the economy to really get in gear again. My instinct is it will happen a little quicker than that.

Roberts: What do you think of the job that President Obama did on steering the stimulus plan through Congress, and does he in fact have the experience necessary to be a good president, reach across party lines and craft a bipartisan bill?

Clinton: Well first of all, he has reached across, and it takes two to tango. I find it amazing that the Republicans who doubled the debt of the country in eight years and produced no new jobs doing it, gave us an economic record that was totally bereft of any productive result are now criticizing him for spending money. You know, I’m a fiscal conservative, I balanced the budget, I ran surpluses. If I were in his position today, I would be doing what he’s doing. Why? Because the problem with the economy is the housing decline led to the general decline in values. Assets are going down. This stimulus is our bridge over troubled waters till the bank reforms kick in. He did the right thing, he did everything he could to get Republican support. He took some of their tax-cutting ideas.

But if you look at this bill, it is designed do three things. And it does all three. It puts money in the hands of people who need money to survive — unemployment benefits, food stamp benefits, tax cuts. Second thing it does is to give money to state and local governments so they don’t have to lay a million people off or raise taxes. Either one would be bad for the economy. The third thing is it does is create new jobs. Given the Congress he had and the environment and the speed with which they had to move, I think he did a fine job with this.

Roberts: Your wife is on a big trip over to the Far East, talking with the leaders of China. She’s going to be taking on the North Korea issue. There’s been some talk in the last week that with the appointment of all of these high profile envoys, from Richard Holbrooke to South Asia, George Mitchell to the Middle East, Dennis Ross in the same area, Vice President Joe Biden out there talking about foreign policy, that maybe she might get a little bit elbowed out here when she it comes to the big projects. Are you concerned about that? Do you talk to her about that?

Clinton: No. I’m not concerned about it. And these envoys are her idea, both the idea of the envoys and the people who were selected. She thinks that Joe Biden has got one of the best foreign policy minds and certainly some of the most important foreign policy experience we’ve had. Let me remind you when I was president, Al Gore had special relationships with both Russia and South Africa. And it didn’t undermine the authority of either Warren Christopher or Madeleine Albright as secretary of state.

The reason they’re doing this, and the reason the president agreed to support it — and he came to the State Department to support the announcements of Holbrooke and Mitchell — is that they all want to get off to a fast start and you’ve got to do a lot of things at once. It’s inconceivable that she could devote the time and detailed attention right now to having a diplomatic strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that exactly parallels the military strategy that [the head of U.S. General Command] Gen. [David] Petraeus has or figures out how to start the Middle East peace negotiations again and what the timetable is and do all this other stuff.

So as long as they’re working on a team and nobody is playing sharp elbows and this is a team — these guys have got a team concept. The president has made it clear he wants everybody to be on the team, they all report in to her as well as to him. They’re all working together. I’m very impressed by that. I think that she made a judgment that we needed in the country’s interest to do everything at once. And I think she’s right.

Roberts: Of course, bilateral relations between the United States and China, a big focus of your administration, did you talk to her at all about this trip?

Clinton: Sure I did. Just like she consulted with a lot of people, we talked about it. I told her what my take on the Chinese is and especially in light of the fact that I work there now in AIDS, I have a big AIDS project there. And I know how they think economically and I think she’ll do quite well there. I think she made a really good decision obviously, she had to go to Japan and south Korea, but going to Indonesia, the word’s biggest Muslim country, sends a loud signal because Indonesia has a part of it, Bali, which is predominantly Hindu, which has been the subject of terrorist attacks. It’s a good deal, I mean the whole thing, it’s the right place to start.

Roberts: A couple of real quick questions, what president do you think you’re most like?

Clinton: Well, personally, I’m not sure. One guy wrote a book saying I was most like Thomas Jefferson, but the times in which I governed were most like Theodore Roosevelt. And the results I received were similar. He had enormous success, the country was better off when he quit than when he started, but several of the things he recommended were not actually done until his cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, became president more than 20 years later.

I think a lot of things that I recommended in terms of health care reform will come to fruition now that we have more modern Democratic Congress and a new Democratic Congress and the Obama administration there. I’ll be surprised if we don’t get health care reform and some of the things I recommended.

Vote expected Tuesday on stimulus after bipartisan deal

February 7, 2009

cnn.com

 

U.S. senators began debate on a massive economic-recovery package Friday evening, after a working coalition of Democrats and some Republicans reached a compromise that trimmed billions in spending from an earlier version.

Shortly before 11:30 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told his colleagues that debate on the plan would continue on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. Reid said a vote could come on Tuesday on the plan, which is championed by President Barack Obama as a tonic for a badly battered economy.

The movement came after days of private meetings between centrist Democrats and Republicans who felt the price tag on the Senate’s nearly $900 billion version of the package was too much.

“There is a winner tonight,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and one of the moderates whose support was crucial in building support for the plan. “It’s the American people and they deserve it.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration was pleased with the progress.

“On the day when we learned 3.6 million people have lost their jobs since this recession began, we are pleased the process is moving forward and we are closer to getting Americans a plan to create millions of jobs and get people back to work,” Gibbs said.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio issued a statement on the deal Friday night, saying, “Ultimately this bill should be judged on whether it works, and 90 percent of a bad idea is still a bad idea.”

Boehner’s criticisms echoed those of the House-passed bill; he said the plan was focused on slow-moving and wasteful spending rather than immediate relief.

“This is not what the American people want; nor is it what the president called for at the start of the process,” he said. “Both of these massively flawed proposals should be scrapped in favor of a truly bipartisan plan that will help our economy preserve and create jobs. The American people want and deserve nothing less.”

The movement came after days of closed-door meetings between moderate Democrats and Republicans, who felt the price on the House’s $800 billion-plus version of the package was too high.

Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska and one of the chief negotiators of the plan, said senators had trimmed the plan to $827 billion in tax cuts and spending on infrastructure, housing and other programs that would create or save jobs.

“We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows,” Nelson said as debate began.

Boehner’s criticisms echoed those of the House-passed bill; he said the plan was focused on slow-moving and wasteful spending rather than immediate relief.

“This is not what the American people want; nor is it what the president called for at the start of the process,” he said. “Both of these massively flawed proposals should be scrapped in favor of a truly bipartisan plan that will help our economy preserve and create jobs. The American people want and deserve nothing less.”

The movement came after days of closed-door meetings between moderate Democrats and Republicans, who felt the price on the House’s $800 billion-plus version of the package was too high.

Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska and one of the chief negotiators of the plan, said senators had trimmed the plan to $827 billion in tax cuts and spending on infrastructure, housing and other programs that would create or save jobs.

“We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows,” Nelson said as debate began. Video Watch CNN analysts discuss what they think the stimulus deal means »

According to several senators, the revised version of the plan axed money for school construction and nearly $90 million for fighting pandemic flu, among other things.

Remaining in the plan are tax incentives for small businesses, a one-year fix of the unpopular alternative-minimum tax and tax-relief for low- and middle-income families, said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was the most prominent Republican negotiator in the bipartisan talks.

“Our country faces a grave economic crisis and the American people want us to work together,” she said. “They don’t want to see us dividing along partisan lines on the most serious crisis facing our country.”

The senate began considering amendments to the plan shortly before 10 p.m. Friday.

While Democrats appeared to believe they had enough Republican support to push the compromise plan through, most GOP members still were speaking against the plan, saying spending is not the answer to cure economic woes.

“This is not bipartisan,” said Sen. John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to Obama. “If this legislation is passed, it’ll be a very bad day for America.”

Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell compared the plan to President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” public works program, which he said did not help the nation out of the Great Depression.

“We’re talking about an extraordinarily large amount of money, and a crushing debt for our grandchildren,” said McConnell of Kentucky. “Now, if most Republicans were convinced that this would work, there might be a greater willingness to support it. But all the historical evidence suggests that it’s highly unlikely to work.”

Earlier Friday, Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich dropped out of the negotiations.

Voinovich concluded that his “philosophical” differences with the approach of Republican negotiators was too great, a Voinovich aide said. The senator said he could no longer support efforts at compromise or the final bill, the aide said.

Voinovich’s departure left four Republican senators involved in the negotiations: Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mel Martinez of Florida and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Democratic leaders will need at least two or three GOP votes to pass the bill.

When they expected a vote Friday night, Democratic sources said ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has been absent from the Senate since collapsing on Inauguration Day, would be present to help get the 60 votes needed to move the plan forward.

“I always need Sen. Kennedy,” Reid said when asked if the vote needed to be held off until the liberal icon could be present.

Democratic negotiators had wrestled Friday over billions of dollars in potential cuts to education spending as senators trimmed what was a $900 billion economic recovery plan.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois confirmed Democrats were in a tough debate over cutting what they saw as core programs. He singled out education as one of the largest areas of cuts — and one of the hardest for Democrats to swallow.

“It’s a painful area for all of us, as Democrats, to make these cuts in education assistance,” he said.

There are “substantial” proposed cuts to a $79 billion fund created to help states deal with the economic crisis by giving them more money for schools, Durbin said.

Putting more pressure on senators was news Friday that employers slashed another 598,000 jobs off U.S. payrolls in January, taking the unemployment rate up to 7.6 percent. See where new jobs might be created »

“This is not some abstract debate. It is an urgent and growing crisis,” President Obama said at a White House ceremony unveiling a new economic advisory board. “If we drag our feet and fail to act, this crisis will turn into a catastrophe.”

The frenzy of meetings on Capitol Hill shifted into yet a higher and more powerful gear.

White House budget director Peter Orszag left a morning meeting in Reid’s office but would not comment on negotiations. Senators who were meeting in their office buildings Thursday were negotiating directly with Reid just outside the chamber doors.

The House passed an $819 billion version of the stimulus plan last week, but no Republican voted in favor of it.

The Senate has 56 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with them. There are 41 Republicans. One Senate seat from Minnesota remains open pending the outcome of an election recount challenge

The Obama’s Stimulus Plan

February 6, 2009
obama-3
Tax relief

The $212 billion in proposed tax cuts in the House bill includes a tax credit of $500 per worker and $1,000 per working couple. Those tax breaks would phase out for individuals making more than $75,000 a year and for couples making more than $150,000.

The bill OK’d by the Senate Finance Committee would add $70 billion in tax cuts in the form of relief for taxpayers snared by the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally designed to prevent the extremely wealthy from avoiding payment of taxes.

In the Senate, Republican officials said they intended to press for a $15,000 tax credit for home buyers through the end of the year. Current law permits a $7,500 tax break and limits it to first-time home buyers.

The provision was the second tax cut approved in as many days targeted to individual industries. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to give a break to consumers who buy new cars.

 Child tax credit

The Senate Finance Committee version of the stimulus plan would make more people eligible for the child tax credit in 2009 and 2010 at a cost of $10.5 billion over ten years.

Jobless benefits

The House bill proposes $38 billion to extend unemployment benefits for jobless people for an additional eleven months, to increase the unemployment benefit by $25 a week, and to provide job training. The House bill would also spend $20 billion to increase food stamp benefits by 13 percent and $7.5 billion for Supplemental Security Income payments and aid to needy families with children.

Health care

The House proposal would spend $40 billion to subsidize health care insurance for the unemployed and provide coverage through the Medicaid program for low-income people; $87 billion to help states pay Medicaid costs; $20 billion to modernize health information technology systems; and $4 billion for preventative care; $1.5 billion for community health centers; $420 million to combat avian flu; $335 million for programs that combat AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis.

Energy

The Senate stimulus plan would spend approximately $49 billion on items ranging from $2 billion in subsidies for manufacturing of advanced car batteries to $1 billion for the Energy Department’s Clean Coal Power Initiative.

The Senate bill also includes $4.5 billion for projects to modernize the nation’s electric power grid and $6 billion for repair of federal buildings to increase energy efficiency. The House bill includes similar provisions.

 

Education

The Senate bill would spend about $125 billion on public schools and on worker re-training. The House bill would increase education funding by about $92 billion over current levels.

Among the specific items in the Senate bill are $79 billion to be given to the states for aid to local public school districts and public colleges and universities.

Also in the Senate bill is about $14 billion to increase Pell Grants for college and university students. The Senate bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $281 in the 2009-2010 academic year and by $400 in the 2010-2011 academic year.
The House bill has similar provisions.

Infrastructure

The Senate bill would spend $142 billion on infrastructure, a broad category which includes an array of projects from renovating and building public schools, to restoration of facilities at parks, to building new highways.

The Senate bill includes $8.4 billion for investments in public bus, train and subway systems and $2 billion for building in high speed rail corridors.

The House bill includes similar provisions.

Science and technology

The Senate bill would spend an additional $1.5 billion on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as $1.4 billion total for the National Science Foundation. The House bill would spend nearly $3 billion on expanding broadband service in rural areas.

Law enforcement

The House bill would spend $4 billion in grants to state and local law enforcement. The Senate bill would spend about $4 billion.

Jump start on jobs

A substantial amount of money would be devoted to creating jobs, many of which would involve repairing the nation’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges. Money also would be invested in alternative energy programs.

Obama administration officials estimate the following number of jobs will be created in 2010:

Mining: 26,000
Construction: 678,000
Manufacturing: 408,000
Wholesale trade: 158,000
Retail trade: 604,000
Information: 50,000
Financial activities: 214,000
Professional and business services: 345,000
Education and health services: 240,000
Leisure and hospitality: 499,000
Other services: 99,000
Utilities: 11,000
Transportation and warehousing: 98,000
Government total: 244,000
Total: 3,675,000

Business breaks

The package would infuse cash into money-losing companies by allowing them to claim tax credits on past profits dating back five years instead of two. It also would offer bonus depreciation for businesses investing in new plants and equipment; double the amount small businesses can write off for capital investments and new equipment purchases; allow businesses to claim a tax credit for hiring youths and veterans.

Accountability

The stimulus plan won’t include money specifically earmarked for lawmakers’ pet projects and will include provisions to ensure transparency and accountability to taxpayers and Congress. The administration wants an oversight board created to meet publicly and issue reports to Congress on how the money is being spent. A user-friendly Internet site also would allow people to track the flow of funds.

 

Mitt Romney – Stimulate the economy, not government

February 6, 2009

mittromney

www.cnn.com (This commentary was adapted from remarks he made last week to the House Republican Conference.)

These are extraordinary times, and like a lot of Republicans I believe that a well-crafted stimulus plan is needed to put people back to work.

We’re on an economic tightrope. The package that passed the House is a huge increase in the amount of government borrowing. And we’ve borrowed so much already that if we add too much more debt, or spend foolishly, we could invite an even bigger crisis.

We could precipitate a worldwide crisis of confidence in America, leading to a run on the dollar or hyperinflation that wipes out family savings and devastates the middle class.

It’s still early in the administration of President Obama. Like everyone who loves this country, I want him to adopt the correct course and then to succeed. He still has a chance to step in and insist on spending discipline among the members of his own party.

It’s his job to set priorities. I hope for America’s sake that he knows that a chief executive can’t vote “present.” He has to say yes to some things and no to a lot of others.

As someone who spent a career in the private sector, I’d like to see a stimulus package that respects the productivity and genius of the American people. And experience shows us what it should look like.

First, there are two ways you can put money into the economy, by spending more or by taxing less. But if it’s stimulus you want, taxing less works best. That’s why permanent tax cuts should be the centerpiece of the economic stimulus.

Second, any new spending must be strictly limited to projects that are essential. How do we define essential? Well, a good rule is that the projects we fund in a stimulus should be legitimate government priorities that would have been carried out in the future anyway, and are simply being moved up to create those jobs now.

As we take out nonessential projects, we should focus on funding the real needs of government that will have immediate impact. And what better place to begin than repairing and replacing military equipment that was damaged or destroyed in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan?

Third, sending out rebate checks to citizens and businesses is not a tax cut. The media bought this line so far, but they’ve got it wrong. Checks in the mail are refunds, not tax cuts. We tried rebate checks in 2008 and they did virtually nothing to jump-start the economy. Disposable income went up, but consumption hardly moved.

Businesses aren’t stupid. They’re not going to invest in equipment and new hires for a one-time, short-term blip. What’s needed are permanent rate cuts on individuals and businesses.

Fourth, if we’re going to tax less and spend more to get the economy moving, then we have to make another commitment as well. As soon as this economy recovers, we have to regain control over the federal budget, and above all, over entitlement spending for programs such as Social Security and Medicare. This is more important than most people are willing to admit.

There is a real danger that with trillions of additional borrowing — from the budget deficit and from the stimulus — world investors will begin to fear that our dollars won’t be worth much in the future. It is essential that we demonstrate our commitment to maintaining the value of the dollar. That means showing the world that we will put a stop to runaway spending and borrowing.

Fifth, we must begin to recover from the enormous losses in the capital investment pool. And the surest, most obvious way to get that done is to send a clear signal that there will be no tax increases on investment and capital gains. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts should be extended permanently, or at least temporarily.

And finally, let’s exercise restraint in the size of the stimulus package. Last year, with the economy already faltering, I proposed a stimulus of $233 billion.

In the final analysis, we know that only the private sector — entrepreneurs and businesses large and small — can create the millions of jobs our country needs. The invisible hand of the market always moves faster and better than the heavy hand of government.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mitt Romney.

Obama warns of turning a ‘crisis into a catastrophe’

February 4, 2009

obama2

www.cnn.com

President Obama warned Wednesday that failure to act immediately on his economic aid plan “will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession.”

“Millions more jobs will be lost. More businesses will be shuttered. More dreams will be deferred,” Obama said, as Senate debate continued on amendments to the stimulus package.

The House last week passed an $819 billion version of the plan, but no Republican voted in favor of it. The president has been trying to gain Republican support before the Senate votes on its version of the bill.

Debate on amendments to the bill is expected to last all week in the Senate. A vote could come as early as Friday.

Republicans are calling for a plan with more tax cuts and less spending. They also want more emphasis on helping homeowners. One Republican proposal could double the tax credit for home buying from $7,500 to $15,000.

Obama has said he wants to make sure Republican ideas are incorporated into the final legislation, but he said Wednesday that Congress should “not make the perfect the enemy of the essential” and brushed off recent criticism of the plan.

“These criticisms echo the very same failed economic theories that led us into this crisis in the first place — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can ignore fundamental challenges like energy independence and the high cost of health care; that we can somehow deal with this in a piecemeal fashion and still expect our economy and our country to thrive,” he said.

“I reject those theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. So I urge members of Congress to act without delay.”

Obama says his plan will create or save up to 4 million jobs.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that a preliminary analysis by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the jobs created by the plan being debated in the Senate would cost taxpayers between $100,000 and $300,000 each.

Grassley said those numbers should be compared to those under the January baseline of the CBO, in which there is no stimulus, that show the Gross Domestic Product per worker to be about $100,000.

The new analysis, Grassley said, indicates the cost of each stimulus job could be up to three times more than jobs created without the stimulus bill.

The first attempt to make a change to the economic stimulus package failed Tuesday night, a sign that Republicans do have some power to change how the bill is structured.

The vote was on adding $24 billion in infrastructure spending on things like highways, mass transit and improvements to water and sewer systems. Had the amendment passed, the Senate’s version of the economic stimulus package would have topped $900 billion.

The procedural vote that would have allowed the Senate to waive the budget rules and move forward on the amendment failed.

Democrats needed just two more votes to proceed on the amendment. The provision failed, with a vote of 58 in favor and 39 opposed. A three-fifths majority was required on the motion.

The vote was mostly along party lines. Only three senators broke ranks: Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, and Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, voted in favor of it; and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, voted against it.

The Senate on Tuesday approved an amendment introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, striking the $246 million tax break for Hollywood production companies. The vote was 52 in favor, 45 opposed. A simple majority was needed on the amendment.

“We need to sober up here and take a look at what we’re doing. Everybody agrees that there ought to be a stimulus package. The question is: How big and what do we spend it on?” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

“The House bill is an embarrassment. The Senate bill on the floor is not markedly better. Our goal will be to pare it down and to target it right at the problem.”

The $819 billion bill that passed in the House last week is two-thirds spending and one-third tax cuts.

Much of the $550 billion in spending is divided among these areas: $142 billion for education, $111 billion for health care, $90 billion for infrastructure, $72 billion for aid and benefits, $54 billion for energy, $16 billion for science and technology, and $13 billion for housing.

McConnell on Monday dismissed the idea that Republicans are trying to block passage of the economic stimulus plan.

“Nobody that I know of is trying to keep a package from passing,” he said. “We’re trying to reform it.”

Some Republicans want to take it a step further than their party’s leaders. Ten Republican senators, including Sen. John McCain, want more funds — almost $90 billion — for infrastructure. They are shopping around a plan with a price tag of just under $500 billion.

That version of the stimulus measure, put together by Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, is broader than the one proposed by GOP leadership, but narrower than the Democratic bill.

The group of Republicans met Tuesday to discuss their plan because they don’t believe their leadership’s approach, focusing exclusively on the housing crisis and tax cuts, is enough to jump-start the economy.

Another alternative that’s getting a lot of attention is a bipartisan plan from Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson and Maine Republican Susan Collins. The two moderate senators are looking at the current economic stimulus package and trying to scrub it of all spending that they say will not stimulate the economy.

Nelson says the amendment has support from both Democrats and Republicans.