Obama convenes economic advisers, calls for swift action on economy

By Carol Eisenberg

November 7, 2008 at 4:37pm

In his first news conference as president-elect, Barack Obama laid out the top priority of his first 100 days: A package of spending that he hopes will stimulate economic growth and aid a struggling middle class.

“If it does not get done in the lame-duck session, it will be the first thing I get done as president of the United States.” he said in Chicago this afternoon.

Flanked by more than a dozen economic advisers, including Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, his predecessor Robert Rubin and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, Obama said he wanted to see a stimulus package passed “sooner, rather than later,” but acknowledged the U.S. has only one president at a time.

He also urged Congress to aid the ailing auto industry and to extend unemployment benefits to a struggling middle class.

Amid intense speculation about his pick for Treasury secretary, Obama said he wanted to name his team with deliberate haste, but “I want to emphasize deliberate, as well as haste.”

Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Summers and Volcker are considered the leading candidates.

Other members of his economic advisory team include Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Xerox chairman Anne Mulcahy and former Commerce Secretary William Daley.

Striking a relaxed and at times jocular tone, Obama said that to prepare for his Jan. 20 inauguration, he had spoken to several former presidents, including Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, as well as George W. Bush, and that all had been gracious.

“I have spoken to all of them who are living,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any séances.”

He made another joke later when asked about his family’s selection of the First Dog, saying he would prefer “a mutt like myself,” but that they needed to find a hypoallergenic breed because his daughter, Malia, had allergies.

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