WASHINGTON - On the eve of the first congressional test of President Barack Obama's stimulus plan, the No. 2 Democrat in the House said he wasn't convinced the plan is big enough.
House Democratic Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said yesterday that few, if any, members of Congress could feel comfortable that the $825 billion spending and tax-cut measure would be sufficient to give the economy the jolt it needs.
"I'm not sure," Hoyer told reporters. "And I think that's true of everybody" in Congress.
Hoyer and other Democratic leaders are citing endorsements from conservative and liberal economists, urging swift passage of the measure.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on its version of the measure today, and approval is considered likely despite opposition from most Republicans and some Democrats.
Some prominent economists are criticizing the package, however, as too small to do the job. Among the critics are Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman and Yale economist Robert Shiller.
Congress needs to approve "a much larger fiscal stimulus plan than is now proposed," Shiller said in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.
As House Republican leaders were urging their caucus members to vote against the plan, Hoyer called their decision "unfortunate" and said they had taken "a political stance" that would dash hopes for bipartisanship.
Hoyer acknowledged that some Democrats believe that "more needs to be done" and that there are some in the Obama administration "who aren't sure this is enough."
But, he added, the $825 billion price tag is "extraordinarily large" and is "almost twice as much as all the discretionary spending" approved by Congress last year.