Economic bill may wait

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats said Sunday that President-elect Barack Obama probably will have to wait until next month before getting the chance to sign an economic aid bill his team hoped would be on his desk by his swearing-in Jan. 20.

"It’s going to be very difficult to get the package put together that early," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said on "Fox News Sunday." Hoyer said he wanted the package on Obama’s desk by mid-February.

Obama planned to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., today to talk about enacting a spending plan. Obama also scheduled a meeting with the entire Democratic and Republican leadership teams.

Reid, speaking on NBC’s "Meet the Press," sought to tamp down expectations set by Democrats themselves that Congress will move quickly to pass the multibillion dollar economic stimulus plan.

After saying previously that he hoped the bill could be ready for Obama to sign into law as soon as possible after he becomes president, Reid said Sunday that he "is not going to have some false deadline."

Obama said Congress should pass a plan designed to create 3 million jobs. He hasn’t announced a final price for it, but aides said the cost could be as high as $775 billion.

Republicans signaled last week that they might stand in the way of quick passage by demanding hearings on the bill and the chance to offer their own amendments.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Sunday that the economy might be helped if Congress moved quickly to pass $400 billion in leftover appropriations bills that lawmakers could not complete in 2008.

"This is an enormous bill. It could be close to a $1 trillion spending bill," he said on ABC’s "This Week." "Do we want to do it with essentially no hearings, no input, for example, in the Senate from Republican senators who represent half of the American population? I don’t think that’s a good idea."

He suggested that one expected component of the Democratic stimulus bill — billions in federal aid to states — be made in the form of loans that states would repay when their economies improve.

Democrats understand that the GOP has to be involved in anything they do, said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat.

"Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid both know that we can’t pass the economic recovery plan that this nation desperately needs without bipartisan cooperation," Durbin said on "This Week." "We’ve got to put aside a lot of the squabbling … and come together under this new administration and new leadership to get the American economy back on line."

Stephens Washington Bureau chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.

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