>The Hill – Leading the News
President-elect Barack Obama said Friday that the nation is facing “the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime,” and a new economic stimulus package is a top priority.
In addition to the stimulus package, Obama said an extension of unemployment benefits tops his list for when he is sworn in — if these two items are not passed and signed by President Bush beforehand.
Speaking in his first press conference since being elected, Obama was flanked by his transition economic advisory board as Friday morning brought news that unemployment numbers had jumped and about 1.2 million jobs have been lost this year.
Obama cautioned that the country “only has one government and one president at a time,” but he said he is confident that he can restore confidence in the economy. Obama said he wants a new stimulus package “sooner rather than later,” and if Bush and Congress fail to pass one in a lame-duck session it “will be the first thing I get done as president of the United States.”
Obama said a second economic stimulus package is “long overdue,” and he will “act swiftly” to “confront this economic crisis head-on.”
With unemployment now at 6.5 percent nationwide, Obama warned that solving the economic crisis will not be a fast process, but he said a new president can do an enormous amount to restore confidence.”
Obama also stressed that the auto industry needs help to preserve manufacturing jobs, and he said that extending unemployment benefits as a top priority.
The White House has said repeatedly that the president is “open” to ideas for plans that would help stimulate the economy, but administration officials have also expressed skepticism about the various stimulus package proposals floating around Capitol Hill.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Friday morning that “we have right now to deal with the economy as it is.”
“Some of the ideas that we’ve seen, things like infrastructure spending, for example, have an exceedingly limited impact on the economy in the short term,” Fratto said.
The president-elect said he is grateful for Bush’s efforts to reach out to him, and he said he would go into his Monday meeting at the White House “with a spirit of bipartisanship.”
Obama also said that future first lady Michelle Obama will scout D.C. schools for their young daughters. And as for the puppy Obama promised his girls on election night — they are looking for a dog that is both allergy-friendly and rescued from the pound.