WASHINGTON (CNN) – The election of Democratic candidate Barack Obama as president is a clear message that Americans are ready for change, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday.
"The American people spoke out loudly and clearly that they wanted a new direction for America, and they voted in large numbers for change," said Pelosi, D-California.
She praised both Obama and his opponent, Sen. John McCain, for their "unifying" speeches late Tuesday, as well as remarks made by President Bush on Wednesday morning. Those comments are "setting a tone I think we all should follow," she said.
Pelosi said she spoke with Obama Wednesday morning and gave him "congratulations, best wishes and great gratitude for his success."
She said she is pleased with Democratic gains in the House that will enhance Congress' ability to work closely with the president-elect.
"What happened was really historic in its nature," she said. "Two years and two days ago, we had 203 Democrats in Congress." While the final number in the next Congress is yet to be determined, she predicted it would be "well over 250."
Those gains came from "not one, but two waves" of votes, she said. "This is historic, that you would have one wave after another. It's a signal of the change the American people want."
Pelosi pledged that Congress will continue to focus on goals including the economy, reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, increasing access to health care and ending the Iraq war.
"The economy, of course, is the top item on the agenda," she said. "... In a bipartisan way, we'll be discussing these issues."
Several Democratic leadership aides have told CNN that House Democratic leaders are putting together a second economic stimulus package costing as much as $150 billion and are likely to call Congress back shortly after the election to vote on it.
While the details are still in flux, one aide said the price tag would be "somewhat north of $100 billion" and would include "a heavy emphasis on help to state and local governments."
Before Congress recessed last week for the election, the House passed economic aid measures totaling $61 billion to fund infrastructure projects, money for states' Medicaid costs and unemployment assistance. But the bills failed to attract enough support in the Senate and drew White House opposition.
"If we can't get the administration interested in doing more, the least we can do is the package that we've put forth," Pelosi said. She said the next obstacle is to get the package past the "60-vote hurdle" in the Senate.
"Depending on what the first package is, we may need another one," she said.
Obama inherits many challenges, Pelosi said, comparing him to President Kennedy.
"With all of these big challenges, we have to do what government is supposed to do," she said, "so we have to choose our priorities very carefully about what is achievable and what can be done in the best possible way, and a lot of it is all about time. ... There will be no time wasted in getting started."