updated 3/11/2009 10:43:09 AM ET 2009-03-11T14:43:09

The obstacles that President Barack Obama faces in pushing his ambitious tax and spending plan through Congress became clearer as key Democrats took issue with major proposals, and some of their favorite economists said the president's jobs projections are too rosy.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled Tuesday that another stimulus bill and bank bailout package are possible, even though both are likely to be unpopular with many voters.

While congressional Democrats appear certain to reject some of Obama's budget proposals, they were eager to defend his overall approach and to blame the economic crisis on former President George W. Bush.

"We are still having unemployment numbers come out now that are part, still, of the Bush economy," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

She introduced a trio of prominent economists who had just briefed her leadership team. But even those hand-picked advisers were not totally in tune with the Democratic hierarchy.

Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics Inc., said Obama is too optimistic when he predicts that the recently enacted $787 billion stimulus bill will save or create at least 3.5 million jobs over two years. About 2.5 million jobs is more realistic, Sinai said.

"Initially, the jobs created may be a little disappointing," Sinai said as Pelosi looked on. But over three years, he said, "3 million new jobs is not unrealistic at all."

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, said more taxpayer money is needed to revive the economy. "Another stimulus package is a reasonable probability," he said, and "more money for financial stability to shore up the banking system is likely."

"More money for foreclosure mitigation may also be necessary," Zandi said.

Pelosi, asked if she agreed with his remarks, said, "I do."

Her spokesman Brendan Daly later said Pelosi and Congress will watch economic conditions "to determine if further action is needed to stimulate the economy."

Obama's team expects little help from Republicans in passing his massive budget blueprint for the year that begins Oct. 1. On Tuesday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the plan has three "fatal flaws:" it spends, taxes and borrows too much.

Democratic hurdles
More troubling for Obama are the arrows coming from congressional Democrats. They generally support his plans to revamp health care, education and energy policies. But prominent Democrats oppose several of his proposals for targeted tax hikes and spending cuts to pay for the changes.

Video: Obama economic adviser speaks out Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said numerous colleagues have cited objections and told him, "If this is in, don't count on my vote."

It has happened so often, Conrad told White House budget director Peter Orszag at a hearing Tuesday, that everyone can "absolutely be sure we can't pass this budget."

Conrad himself is part of Obama's problem. He is among those who oppose the president's bid to eliminate subsidies to farms with more than $500,000 in annual sales. There is no need to revisit the farm bill approved last year, Conrad said.

Also unpopular with many Democratic lawmakers is the president's proposal to reduce the tax deductibility of mortgage payments and charitable gifts by households making more than $250,000 a year. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel said he worries there would be fewer donations to groups that help the needy "during a time of crisis."

The White House has cited studies suggesting the drop would be tiny, but Rangel said he wants more information.

Obama also may face hurdles in trying to impose higher premium payments for upper-income retirees receiving drug benefits under Medicare, the government health care program for the elderly. Senate Democrats killed such an effort two years ago. They are taking a wait-and-see approach to the president's plan.

"Having the president supporting that certainly doesn't hurt it," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters. "So it's something we'll take a look at."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said there is no need for panic over the potshots coming Obama's way.

"I don't think, ultimately, the criticism is surprising," he told reporters. "That certainly happens and is all part of a process."

"The American people can be assured," Gibbs said, "that the president spends the vast majority of his time thinking and working on the economy."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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