White House: No "Big New Stimulus Plan" Coming

An Ohio Department of Transportation sign is seen near the Interstate 490 and Interstate 77 ramps on Monday, June 8, 2009 in Cleveland. The project is using stimulus funds to widen the road to two lanes to accommodate trucks. But a Government Accountability Office report and a House committee found that the stimulus funds are not going to the areas where jobs and improvement projects are most needed. AP Photo/Plain Dealer, Scott Shaw

Stimulus project
An Ohio Department of Transportation sign is seen near the Interstate 490 and Interstate 77 ramps on Monday, June 8, 2009 in Cleveland.
AP Photo/Plain Dealer, Scott Shaw

Updated 6:03 p.m. Eastern Time

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today that there are no plans for a "big new stimulus plan" to goose the sluggish economy.

The comment was spurred by a question about comments yesterday by departing White House chief economist Christina Romer, who reportedly pushed for a larger stimulus package than the $814 billion Recovery Act measure passed soon after President Obama took office.

"The only surefire ways for policymakers to substantially increase aggregate demand in the short run are for the government to spend more and tax less," Romer said. "In my view, we should be moving forward on both fronts."

Asked at his press briefing Thursday if Romer's remarks were "setting a stage for a second stimulus," Gibbs said no, though he added that "we will continue to look at and take steps that are...targeted in nature to help continue the recovery and to help create an environment where the private sector is adding jobs."

He also noted that there is a bill before Congress that would cut small business taxes, which Mr. Obama has complained that Republicans are blocking for partisan purposes.

"My economic team is hard at work identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term and increasing our economy's competitiveness in the long term," the president said Monday.

But a second stimulus package is not among the possible "additional measures" being explored, Gibbs insisted Thursday.

Asked if "something even resembling what we saw when you all first came to the office is off the table," he replied: "I have not been in a meeting where that's been discussed."

After the briefing, however, the Washington Post reported that "President Obama's economic team is considering another big dose of stimulus in the form of tax breaks for businesses - potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars, according to two people familiar with the talks." 

Asked about the Post story, Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki told CBS News that "there has been a lot of reports and rumors on different options being considered--many of which are incorrect."

"The options under consideration build on measures the President has previously proposed, and we are not considering a second stimulus package," she said. "The President and his team are discussing several options, as they have been for months and no final decisions have been made."

An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CBS News that he does not see how any stimulus could pass in the current political environment. Even though many tax proposals are popular among both parties, the aide said, Republicans would find a way to block it.

Economists say the stimulus package has created 2.7 billion jobs and added $460 billion to gross domestic product since being signed, and some economists are calling for a second stimulus package to further boost the economy. But the unemployment rate has not fallen as far as the White House hoped - it stands at 9.5 percent - and Americans are not buying the administration's attemptsto sell stimulus 1.0.

Add to that the fact that it's an election year - one in which many conservatives are motivated by the anti-spending, anti-debt message being pushed by the Tea Party movement - and pushing anything called a "stimulus" looks like bad politics. Though new measures to help the economy are expected in the coming months, they are likely to be relatively small and not presented as "stimulus" measures.

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