Barack Obama returned to Capitol Hill today for the first time since his election, convening leaders of both parties to lay the groundwork for his economic agenda.
Aides to Senate and House leadership were instructed to be tight-lipped when it came to discussing the affair. So news, at this point, is fairly slim. One Democratic leadership aide, however, told the Huffington Post that the topics discussed between the president-elect and Speaker Nancy Pelosi included a wide-range of issues, some obvious, some a bit more unexpected.
On the table were the status and future of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700 billion in bailout funds that have been (controversially) used to prop up banks rather than buy up troubled mortgage bonds. Obama and Pelosi also discussed the economic stimulus, whose outlines became clearer over the weekend, when transition officials said the package would include roughly $300 billion in tax cuts.
Combined, TARP and an economic stimulus bill represent the two critical economic policy challenges that will confront the incoming administration. But they were not the sole items discussed between Obama and Pelosi. The two Democratic power brokers also talked about SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, that Democrats have unsuccessfully attempted to fund at higher levels; and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, legislation meant to overrule a 2007 Supreme Court decision that denied compensation to Ledbetter for unequal wages during her time working for Goodyear.
Both the SCHIP and Lilly Ledbetter bills, which were blocked are expected to sail through the House very early in the 111th Congress.
Obama and Pelosi also discussed the Employee Free Choice Act, the top legislative priority of the labor community, which makes it easier for workers to unionize. Conservative and business groups have already mobilized several national campaigns to oppose passage of that legislation.
Before the meeting, Obama told reporters that he was on the Hill because "the people's business cannot wait... The speaker and her staff have been extraordinarily helpful in working with our team so we can shape an economic investment and recovery plan that will start to put people back to work."
Pelosi, too, addressed the press, saying she hoped to "hit the ground running" and "work together in a bipartisan way" to address the economic crisis.
The Democratic aide, described the meeting between the Speaker and the president-elect as "very positive."