WASHINGTON — President-elect Obama is preparing to lead a full-scale marketing blitz to pass the massive new stimulus package that he says is needed to revive the slumping economy and put the nation on the course he laid out during his campaign.
Obama will move to Washington this weekend, checking into a hotel with his family. In the remaining weeks of the transition, and after he is sworn in, he will use the "bully pulpit" to make the case for passage of a stimulus package of up to $775-billion, an aide said.
Obama, now in Hawaii on vacation, may travel outside Washington after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, while other figures in the new administration scatter across the country to explain in minute detail the scope and purpose of the stimulus plan, said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president-elect.
"We'll fan out, and this will be a public process," Axelrod said in an interview. "We'll make clear to people why we need to do what we're doing, why it's the size it is, what the individual component parts are, and why they are an important part of the equation in terms of short-term recovery."
Obama, he said, "wants the American people involved in this discussion."
But his stratagem of mobilizing grass roots support and using his popularity to sway public opinion carries the potential to inflame partisan tensions.
By mounting an aggressive public relations campaign, Obama may be seen as bypassing the Republicans en route to a major legislative victory. Obama's methods could leave Republicans feeling isolated and marginalized.
Republicans, who seem convinced the bill will ultimately pass, want the stimulus bill steered onto a slower track so they have more time to evaluate the plan with a view toward rooting out pork-barrel projects. That can't happen if a bill is sent to Obama for his signature on Jan. 20 or shortly thereafter, Republican leaders cautioned.
"They've not contacted us about putting together this package," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Obama is to leave Honolulu today, stopping in Chicago before his move to Washington this weekend.
Treasury may expand auto aid
The Treasury Department said Wednesday it will decide on a case-by-case basis whether other companies connected to the struggling automotive industry should be provided emergency aid from the government's $700-billion bailout pot. President Bush announced a $17.4-billion rescue package for teetering auto giants General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. The government earlier this week provided $5-billion in aid to GMAC Financial Services, GM's troubled financing arm. It also said it would loan up to $1-billion to GM as part of that initiative.
Bailout problems: Officials overseeing the $700-billion bailout have acknowledged difficulties tracking the money and assessing the program's effectiveness. The information was contained in a document, released Wednesday, of a Dec. 10 meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Board, which is headed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.