WASHINGTON (AP) -- With Congress poised to hand him a big victory on the stimulus plan, President Barack Obama hailed the massive bill and the "spirited debate" that accompanied it.
But he also warned Friday that much more work will be needed to transform the ailing economy.
"Passing this plan is a critical step," Obama told a group at the White House. "But as important as it is, it's only the beginning of what we must do to turn our economy around."
Other needed actions, Obama said, include implementing the newly reconfigured $700 billion financial industry bailout program, announcing an effort to stem home foreclosures, reforming the regulation that governs the nation's financial sector and crafting what he called a "responsible" federal budget. These are all points that he'd made repeatedly in recent days.
Obama also plans to announce a housing program, perhaps as soon as next week. His administration in the coming weeks will be unveiling its proposals for overhauling regulations and presenting its first budget request to Congress.
The $790 billion economic stimulus plan is on track for a Friday vote in the House, and the Senate is expected to follow either later in the day or over the weekend, sending the measure to Obama's desk.
Said the president: "We have a once in a generation chance to act boldly, turn adversity into opportunity, and use this crisis as a chance to transform our economy for the 21st century."
Obama asserts that the stimulus package will create or save 3.5 million jobs, while critics contend the bill is filled with wasteful spending and provisions that won't boost the economy.
"We had a spirited debate about this plan over the last few weeks," Obama said. But, he added, "Diverse viewpoints are the lifeblood of a democracy, and debating them is how we learn from each other's perspectives."
In the East Room event, Obama addressed members of The Business Council, a Roosevelt-era entity that brings together the leaders of some of the nation's biggest companies to help advise the president on policy.
"I hope this is the beginning of many conversations," Obama said. "My door is open to you."
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