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Project Would Be the Largest Since the Interstate System

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

On the heels of more grim unemployment news, President-elect Barack Obama yesterday offered the first glimpse of what would be the largest public works program since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the federal interstate system in the 1950s.

Obama said the massive government spending program he proposes to lift the country out of economic recession will include a renewed effort to make public buildings energy-efficient, rebuild the nation’s highways, renovate aging schools and install computers in classrooms, extend high-speed Internet to underserved areas and modernize hospitals by giving them access to electronic medical records.

“We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least 2 1/2 million jobs so that the nearly 2 million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future,” Obama said in his weekly address, broadcast on the radio and the Internet.

Obama offered few details and no cost estimate for the investment in public infrastructure. But it is intended to be part of a broader effort to stimulate economic activity that will also include tax cuts for middle-class Americans and direct aid to state governments to forestall layoffs as programs shrink.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for spending between $400 billion and $500 billion on the overall package. Some Senate Democrats and other economists have suggested spending even more — potentially $1 trillion — in the hope of jolting the economy into shape more quickly.

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The Republican National Committee has taken out a $5 million line of credit to help fund last minute efforts to keep Senate Democrats from winning a filibuster-proof 60 seat majority, according to an official with the committee.

Of the $5 million, $2 million is being directly transferred to the National Republican Senatorial Committee while $3 million is being devoted to coordinated expenditures that began over the last week.

“This effort not only helps fortify senators but it’s good for the whole Republican ticket,” said the RNC official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “This is an investment in the entire ticket in addition to an unprecedented get out the vote effort.”

With the White House apparently slipping away and House Republicans looking at losses of 20 or more seats, the Senate is being painted as the last, best chance for Republicans to hold some semblance of power within Congress.

Right now, three states are largely seen as near-certain Democratic pickups: Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado.

The RNC line of credit is almost certain to be spent on a handful of vulnerable Republican incumbents who face varying levels of peril. That list includes North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens among others.

The decision by the RNC to help fund a series of Senate contest shows that national GOP strategists see the Senate as their firewall in next week’s election.

Will it change things? It’s very hard to know with so much volatility in the environment. But, it does show the RNC is willing to do everything it can to hold strong against the onrushing Democratic wave.

Washington Post