Obama Announces Economic Team, Prods New Congress to Pass Stimulus Package

“We must both restore confidence in our markets and restore the confidence of middle class families, who find themselves working harder, earning less and falling further and further behind,” he said, according to the New York Times.

“Most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year,” he added, urging the newly elected Congress to act quickly on his plans after opening its session on Jan. 6.

At a news conference in Chicago, Mr. Obama named New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner, 47, to be his Treasury secretary. Geithner has worked closely with current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke to address the financial crisis in recent months.

The president-elect named former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be director of his National Economic Council. He named University of California, Berkeley economist Christina Romer as chair of his Council of Economic Advisors, and Melody Barnes, an executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, as director of his White House Domestic Policy Council.

Mr. Obama said the new team would bring “sound judgment and fresh thinking” to the White House, according to the Associated Press.

The president-elect did not specify how big a spending package he believes necessary to jump-start the economy, but he said that it would be costly. Democratic lawmakers speculated over the weekend that the price tag could reach $700 billion over two years as the nation struggles to emerge from a recession compounded by a credit crunch. “It’s going to be costly,” the president-elect said, according to the AP.

He also predicted, “The economy is likely to get worse before it gets better.”

Mr. Obama’s call for quick congressional action was welcomed by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “With the cooperation of our Republican colleagues, we intend to send a plan to the White House as soon as possible following President-elect Obama’s inauguration,” Reid said, according to the AP.

Echoing that, the second-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said, “We expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president’s consideration when he takes office.”

While Mr. Obama and his team are focused on the work of the new Congress, they also weighed in on work pending before the current one. He also criticized the Big Three automakers for failing to craft a better plan before asking Congress for bailout money last week.

“We can’t allow the auto industry to simply vanish,” he said, according to the Times. “But we can’t just write a blank check.”

The principal theme of his second news conference after the election was urgency

“We do not have a minute to waste,” he said, citing the turmoil in the financial markets as well as the deterioration of the broader economy.

He also said he would “honor the commitments made by the current administration” to deal with the problems, signaling approval of the Bush administration’s latest effort to rescue Citigroup as well as the broader $700 billion bailout designed to shore up the financial markets.

Mr. Bush said earlier in the day that the government’s dramatic rescue of Citigroup was necessary to “safeguard the financial system” and help the economy recover, and he said there could be more such moves if other institutions need help.

“We have made these kind of decisions in the past. We made one last night. And if need be we will make these kind of decisions to safeguard our financial system in the future,” President Bush said.