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America cannot wait for economic kick-start: Obama

world Updated: Jan 05, 2009 22:50 IST

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President-elect Barack Obama warned on Monday Americans could not wait for economic help, after congressional leaders dashed earlier hopes his huge stimulus plan could be ready as soon as he takes office.

A day after making the move to Washington two weeks before his inauguration, Obama launched a volley of high-profile talks on Capitol Hill designed to up pressure for quick passage of his massive economic rescue bid.

"The reason we are here today is because the people's business can't wait," Obama told reporters at the start of a meeting with House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"We've got an extraordinary economic challenge ahead of us, we're expecting a sobering job report at the end of the week."

Obama was also set to hold meetings later in the day with congressional leaders from both sides of the political aisle as he seeks to build momentum for his bid to shake the US economy out of its deep malaise.

As he met congressional power brokers, first details began to emerge of the scope of Obama's stimulus plan which will be worth more than 775 billion dollars.

The president-elect is shaping a big tax cut for middle class workers and businesses worth 300 billion dollars or more around 40 percent of the total economic rescue bill, an Obama transition source said.

Obama has already signalled a multi-billion dollar program of public works programs, including highway and bridge repair, renovating school classrooms and aid to cash strapped states for "shovel ready" infrastructure projects.

The magnitude of the tax cut will take some analysts by surprise and may be seen as a bid to woo Republican support for the stimulus program, especially in the Senate where the opposition party has enough lawmakers to block legislation.

There had been talk in Washington that the new Congress would get to work quickly on the stimulus package as soon as it is sworn in on Tuesday and pass a bill for Obama can sign as soon as he is inaugurated on January 20.

But Democratic House leader Steny Hoyer said Sunday the bill could pass through his chamber by the end of the month and clear the Senate by mid February.

Republicans and some Democrats have been demanding hearings and public scrutiny of the package, given its huge size and likely impact on US government finances.