Outgunned Republicans urge Obama's help on stimulus

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 12 2009 12:12 AM | Updated as of Feb 12 2009 08:12 AM

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama's Republican critics urged him Wednesday to step in and include some of their tax-cut ideas in a giant economic stimulus bill over objections from his Democratic allies.

"We're hopeful, hopeful that it's not too late. The president can still intervene," House Minority Leader John Boehner told reporters amid talk that lawmakers may vote in the next 48 hours on a final compromise bill.

"The president can reach out to us, as we've reached out to him, bring us into the process so that we'll have a bill that actually works," Boehner said after a meeting of his troops.

House and Senate Democrats, a tiny handful of Senate Republicans, and top Obama aides met late into the night Tuesday to thrash out a package blending tax cuts and government spending to revive the battered US economy.

"What's going on here over the last 24 hours is that they've been meeting in secret, trying to draft some kind of a compromise," and shutting out Republicans, Boehner told reporters.

His comments came as a handful of hand-picked Republicans and Democrats from the Senate and House of Representatives were to meet at 3:00 pm (2000 GMT) as part of negotiations to reconcile the two chambers' rival versions of the plan.

"My colleagues and I continue to reach out to the president to work with him on a stimulus bill that will create jobs and help preserve jobs in America, but neither the House nor the Senate bill do that," said Boehner.

The House of Representatives last week defeated the Republicans' plan, which was focused on tax cuts, in favor of a blend of tax cuts and spending running at about 819 billion dollars.

The Senate on Tuesday approved an 838-billion-dollar version of the bill -- but only thanks to support from three Republican senators who broke ranks to support the measure, and whose backing remains crucial going forward.

The House and Senate "conference" aims to bridge differences between both chambers, which would have to vote on a final compromise that will go to Obama, perhaps as early as this week.