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On Day Six, Obama Takes on Global Warming

January 26, 2009 at 6:05 PM EDT
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President Barack Obama asked regulators to reconsider waivers that would allow California and other states to set their own standards for auto emissions and responded to new concerns about the economy at the start of his first full week in office. Jeffrey Brown reports on the developments.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: This was a day of carnage across nearly all sectors of the U.S. economy. At least 45,000 American workers got word they’re losing their jobs, mostly by layoffs.

Nearly half the cuts came at Caterpillar, maker of construction and mining machines. It’s shedding almost 20,000 positions.

The world’s largest drug-maker, Pfizer, announced that it would cut 8,000 workers in just the first wave of layoffs, as it buys rival Wyeth for $68 billion.

Sprint Nextel also announced the loss of 8,000 jobs in its wireless phone business.

The nation’s largest home improvement retailer, Home Depot, said that it is eliminating 7,000 jobs.

And General Motors said that it will drop another 2,000 workers.

Foreign companies joined in, announcing cuts totaling 17,000 more jobs in Europe.

The cascade of bad news greeted President Obama on day six of his administration. Jeffrey Brown has our report.

JEFFREY BROWN: President Obama wasted no time this morning responding to the job losses.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Over the last few days, we’ve learned that Microsoft, Intel, United Airlines, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel, and Caterpillar are each cutting thousands of jobs. These are not just numbers on a page. As with the millions of jobs lost in 2008, these are working men and women whose families have been disrupted and whose dreams have been put on hold.

Obama touts stimulus package

JEFFREY BROWN: As a result, Mr. Obama said, Congress must not wait to pass the $825 billion stimulus bill that the administration has put forward.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We owe it to each of them and to every single American to act with a sense of urgency and common purpose. We can't afford distractions and we cannot afford delays.

And that is why I look forward to signing an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will put millions of Americans to work and lay the foundation for stable growth that our economy needs and that our people demand. These are extraordinary times, and it calls for swift and extraordinary action.

JEFFREY BROWN: The president went on to tout elements of the stimulus plan that he said would lead to job creation through a, quote, "new energy economy."

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan before Congress places a down payment on this economy. It will put 460,000 Americans to work with clean energy investments and double the capacity to generate alternative energy over the next three years.

It will lay down 3,000 miles of transmission lines to deliver this energy to every corner of our country. It will save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75 percent of federal buildings more efficient. And it will save working families hundreds of dollars on their energy bills by weatherizing 2 million homes.

Resistance builds among Republicans

JEFFREY BROWN: But there were growing signs of resistance to the administration plan over the weekend, as Republicans dismissed provisions they said would not put people to work.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, House minority leader: ... $200 million to fix up the National Mall, $21 million for sod, over $200 million for contraceptives, how is this going to fix an ailing economy?

JEFFREY BROWN: House minority leader John Boehner spoke yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I can agree with some of the long-term plans. And on the energy side, I may not be in full agreement, but it's generally moving in the right direction.

But providing $300 billion of this package to states, $166 billion in direct aid to the states, another $140 billion in education funding, this is not going to do anything -- anything -- to stimulate our economy, to help our ailing economy.

And so, at the end of the day, it has to be targeted. It's about preserving jobs and creating new jobs. Given the concerns that we have over the size of this package and all of the spending in this package, we don't think it's going to work. And so if it's the plan that I see today, put me down in the no column.

DAVID GREGORY, host, "Meet the Press": And Republicans, rank-and-file will fall in line?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I think a lot of Republicans will vote no, because they see this as a lot of wasteful Washington spending, padding the bureaucracy, and doing nothing to help create jobs and preserve jobs.

JEFFREY BROWN: In one other development today, the Senate moved toward confirming Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary, leaving the president a step closer to having his full economic team in place to deal with the deepening crisis.

As for the stimulus plan itself, the House is expected to vote on it later this week.