ELKHART, Ind. - Campaigning for action in the most dire terms, President Barack Obama said Monday that if Congress does not quickly pass an economic stimulus package, the country will slip into a crisis so deep that "we may be unable to reverse" it.
"We can't afford to wait. We can't wait to see and hope for the best," Obama said in Elkhart, Ind., a community reeling in job losses during the recession that has defined Obama's young presidency. "We can't posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us in into this mess in the first place."
Obama, taking the Washington debate to a Midwest setting of everyday Americans, sought to build support for a massive infusion of government spending.
He acknowledged that the bill currently circulating in Congress is not beyond criticism, even poking fun at its authors at one point. Said Obama: "It's coming out of Washington. It's going through Congress."
"You know, look, it's not perfect," the president conceded. "But it is the right size, it is the right scope. Broadly speaking, it has the right priorities to create jobs that will jump-start our economy and transform the economy for the 21st century."
The $827 billion Senate version of the plan was expected to pass the Senate on Tuesday. However, it remained to be seen how much Republican support it would draw. And it must be reconciled with the House version, which totalled $820 billion in spending and tax cuts. Senate and House negotiators were already preparing to deal, with the goal of a bill on Obama's desk by the end of this week or beginning of next.
Obama went so far as to say he could not assure that every item in the stimulus plan would work as hoped. But he said he has no doubts that "delay or paralysis" in Washington will deepen the country's crisis. He was speaking in northern Indiana, where the unemployment rate soared to 15.3 per cent in one county in December, up a whopping 10.6 percentage points from December 2007. The region has been hammered by layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry.
"Doing nothing is not an option," Obama said. "We've had a good debate. Now it's time to act."