WASHINGTON The House of Representatives will consider next week the $825 billion stimulus package sought by President Barack Obama to help the struggling economy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday, as Republicans sought to turn its emphasis to tax cuts.
Republicans criticizing the package say the $550 billion devoted to government spending would add too much to the deficit and that greater emphasis should be given to tax cuts than the $275 billion now planned. Tax cuts, they argue, would more quickly jolt the economy out of a yearlong recession.
Obama and Democrats want the package to be signed into law by mid-February but must overcome that Republican skepticism.
"The president asked for action swift and bold. That is what we are doing," Pelosi told reporters, adding that the bill would be considered on the House floor next week.
Pelosi expressed little concern about plans by House Republicans to meet with Obama next week to offer their own ideas for the package. They requested the meeting because few of the provisions they want were being adopted by the House committees working on the legislation.
"I think it's important for the president to communicate directly with the Republicans," she said.
House Minority Leader John Boehner said his colleagues will present Obama with very specific proposals to stimulate the economy.
"My colleagues on the Republican side need to be heard in this process. Our plans offers fast-action tax relief, not slow moving, wasteful government spending," he said.
While Republicans can offer amendments, they are not expected to stall the legislation for fear of being blamed for deepening the economic gloom that appears to be worsening with each passing week.
The number of Americans lining up for jobless benefits surged last week, and new housing starts and building permits hit record lows in December, sending stocks down over 200 points in early afternoon trading on fears the economy's slide was accelerating.
Democrats, who control both the House and Senate, have said they want to present the legislation to Obama by mid-February, a timetable Pelosi said on Thursday she would stand by.
Obama plans to meet with leaders of both chambers on Friday to discuss the stimulus package and other issues, she said. Senate committees are expected to begin their work on the package next week.
Pelosi said another goal was to pass legislation for bankruptcy reform this year to address faulty mortgages as home foreclosures have soared, adding that she was open to attaching it to the stimulus measure or pursuing other options.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Matt Bigg, Editing by Philip Barbara)