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Obama presses on with revival bid

UNITED States President Barack Obama was moving forward on both tracks of his strategy to revive the economy yesterday, with his administration unveiling a bank bailout plan and the Senate expected to approve a massive stimulus package.

Obama worked to build public support for a quick passage of the US$800-billion-plus stimulus plan in his first nationally televised press conference on Monday night. He warned that Congress risks turning "a crisis into a catastrophe" if it fails to approve the measure.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department was set to announce yesterday how it would spend the remaining US$350 billion of the US$700 billion Wall Street bailout started by the Bush administration last year.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is to unveil the revamped bailout plan, which envisions big investors buying more than US$1 trillion in troubled assets from the banks. It also is to include tough new standards and efforts to spur more lending to consumers and businesses.

The Senate, meanwhile, was expected to approve a US$838 billion stimulus bill yesterday, though with minimal support from opposition Republicans. Senate approval would set the stage for possibly contentious negotiations with the House on a final compromise on legislation.

Congressional leaders hope to get the bill to Obama's desk in a few days. He defended the stimulus plan at his press conference, saying the federal government "is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life."

"The plan is not perfect," the president said. "No plan is. I can't tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans."

Obama was yesterday headed to Fort Myers, Florida, a metropolitan area among the hardest-hit by mortgage foreclosures, for another town-hall meeting like the one he held on Monday in Elkhart, Indiana, to promote his economic plan.

Just three weeks after his inauguration was celebrated jubilantly around the world, Obama has run into the jarring difficulties of governing. He failed to win over the Republicans he courted for his economic plan. Some of his supporters have wondered if he has yielded too much ground in the pursuit of bipartisanship.

Yet Obama's approval ratings remain high - 67 percent according to the latest Gallup poll.

"This is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill recession," Obama said on Monday. He cited Japan's failure to act to reverse a recession that turned the 1990s into a "lost decade" with no economic growth.


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