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Obama's economy boost - just don't call it stimulus

By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer


WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- President Obama is pledging to propose a new package of job-boosting ideas next week -- just don't call it stimulus.

The problem: Obama needs help from Congress to pass anything meaningful. But Congress is preoccupied with getting elected in November and unlikely to pass any new economic policy initiatives, experts say.

And nobody in Washington wants to go near the politically-toxic word "stimulus," which conjures up images of last year's massive and controversial $787 billion package.

Still, the pressure is on the administration to do something. Friday's job report was the latest in a series of lackluster economic reports. Government data showed a net loss of 54,000 jobs, with private sector hiring unable to make up for government job cuts. This comes after reports of plunging home sales and a downward revision in the Gross Domestic Product numbers last week.

"The general political environment is slowly shifting back to -- yes, we need to do more," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Economy.com. "The recovery is not where it should be and things can be done to help."

In a brief speech on the economy Friday, Obama touted the private sector job growth as he promised a new package of ideas to juice the economy.

"We are confident that we are moving in the right direction, but we want to keep this recovery moving stronger and accelerate the job growth that's needed so desperately all across the country," Obama said.

Some of the ideas tossed around the White House range from federal spending on infrastructure projects to a permanent extension of the research and development tax credit for businesses.

What the White House will ultimately propose next week is still in the works.

When reporters pelted Press Secretary Robert Gibbs with questions about the economy during his Thursday briefing, Gibbs was quick to knock down any suggestion of "second stimulus" proposals.

Gibbs said several times during the briefing that any administration proposals would be "targeted," adding that he didn't anticipate anything "that rivals the extraordinary measures that the President has already taken."

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner seems equally interested in skirting the word stimulus. While huddling with White House aides in the West Wing Thursday night, he was overheard saying there will be "no second stimulus" when the president unveils a legislative package to send to Capitol Hill.

The problem is, there's little political will on Capitol Hill to get much done, especially anything that could add to deficits.

The Senate, in particular, has been mired in stalemate, with Democrats unable to break Republican filibusters, including against an initiative that has drawn bipartisan support, giving tax breaks to small businesses. (Although Democrats may have secured the votes needed to pass that measure when they return the week of Sept. 13.)

Congressional Democrats remain skeptical they can attract enough Republican support to pass any new economic measures, especially with the November elections around the corner.

"Republicans have blocked each and every attempt we've had to provide a jump-start to the economy, and I have no reason to think they're going to change at this point in time," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-N.V.

Capitol Hill veterans agree Congress won't be able to muster enough votes to pass anything new the rest of the year, beyond an extension of expiring tax cuts.

"For the short term, the message is, 'Don't expect much from Washington," said Brian Gardner, a Washington analyst with investment firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said in a research note.

-- Staff Writer Annalyn Censky and CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report. To top of page

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