President-elect Barack Obama met with party leaders on Capitol Hill Monday to discuss an economic stimulus package. Reports also emerged that he selected former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta to lead the CIA. Journalists discuss the latest news.
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With President-elect Obama meeting with congressional leaders and new developments in the efforts to fill several Senate vacancies, there was no shortage of political news on this eve of opening day for the 111th Congress.
We dive right in with Amy Walter, editor-in-chief of the Hotline, National Journal's political daily; and Shailagh Murray, congressional correspondent for the Washington Post.
Thank you both for being here. Let's start with the subject on everybody's mind — Shailagh, to you first — that's the economy. We learned over the weekend that the president-elect is now looking at proposing 40 percent of this big stimulus package in tax cuts.
First of all, tax cuts for whom? And is this a surprise?
SHAILAGH MURRAY, The Washington Post:
It is a surprise, the size of this proposal. We were expecting to see a payroll tax credit that Senator Obama proposed during the campaign that would go to individuals, people who were working, middle-class folks, mostly. There was also a business incentive for creating jobs and preserving jobs that he's been touting for a number of months.
But a number of these provisions have been around Washington for a while, and they're mostly Republican ideas, to invest — to allow businesses to invest in new equipment and write off losses in larger quantities.
So they've resurfaced from 2002-2003 tax bills. They're very popular. And the Obama folks and many folks on the Hill believe it can have a direct impact on the economy.
Now, Mr. Obama said today it's consistent with what he was talking about during the campaign.
The president-elect has never seen himself as particularly ideological when it comes to economic issues. He has always touted himself as a pragmatist who's willing to listen to ideas from anybody and willing to consider anything that he thinks might work.
They see this tax proposal as an act of goodwill, good faith towards Republicans, who they very much want on board on this package. They want a big vote coming out of Congress on this stimulus bill. It won't happen as quickly as they may have wanted, but, six weeks or so from now, I think they're hoping for 80 votes or so in the Senate on this.