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Obama defends Summers on 2009 economic stimulus

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) arrives for a meeting with House Democrats at the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington July 31, 2013. REUT
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) arrives for a meeting with House Democrats at the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington July 31, 2013. REUT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama pushed back on Wednesday against critics who complain that his former top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, was not aggressive enough in seeking more economic stimulus funds than Congress ultimately approved in 2009.

House of Representatives Democrats left a closed-door meeting with Obama saying the president defended the size of his administration's nearly $800 billion stimulus law and said it was all he could get from Congress at the time.

Summers and Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen are seen as Obama's leading candidates to replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke when his term ends next January.

At the closed-door meeting, Obama said that he had not made any decisions on his choice of Bernanke's replacement, according to a number of House Democrats.

"The decision is not ready to be made. He was quite clear about that," Representative Steve Israel said.

"He did talk about Larry Summers' qualities, but he also said there were many other candidates with their own qualities. This meeting was not an endorsement or lack of endorsement of Larry Summers or anybody else," Israel said.

Representative Carolyn Maloney, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said that published speculation about a Bernanke replacement - which has suggested Obama was primarily focusing on two candidates - may not be accurate, but she did not elaborate.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters following the meeting that Obama did not bring up a discussion of the pending Fed nomination, but was responding to a question from a House Democrat.

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Vicki Allen and Jim Loney)

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