Vice President Joe Biden, joining in the hard sell for the economic stimulus plan, went today to a commuter rail station in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Laurel, Md., to highlight the infrastructure spending in the bill.
Biden said that President Obama's plan would create 400,000 jobs in the next two years by investing at least $100 billion in mass transit systems, highways, bridges, ports -- what the White House calls the largest increase in infrastructure spending since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950s.
But fellow Democrats in the Senate fell two votes short on Tuesday of adding $25 billion for highways, mass transit, and water projects to the package. Republicans blocked the move, insisiting that any additional infrastructure spending be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the package.
Critics of the $819 billion version of the stimulus bill passed by the House last week say it falls far short on infrastructure spending -- which many economists say is one of the quickest ways to create jobs -- compared to the pledges the president has made. Analysts computed that only 5 percent of the House legislation would go to highway, mass transit, and rail projects.
Biden's full remarks, and a question-and-answer session -- as provided by the White House -- are below:
The White House report on the infrastructure component of the package is also below:
Thank you very much. Mr. Mayor, thanks for the passport to get in town here. And, Governor, it's a delight to be with you. And Ben Cardin pointed out -- Senator Cardin -- the things that Joe Biden knows this, and Joe Biden knows that. Joe Biden knows you're freezing. (Laughter.) Joe Biden knows that pretty soon you won't be able to even move your pens. So I figure if I talk long enough you won't be able to report a thing I say. (Laughter.)
But, ladies and gentleman, I'll be straight to the point. Thanks for coming here today. And as we stand here today, it's an understatement to say the economy is in trouble and the need is urgent. Quite simply, we cannot wait. We cannot wait another two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. We cannot wait.
Our economic recovery package that's now before the Senate will put us back on track to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs. And right here in Maryland, a paper released by the National Economic Council this week shows that the plan would create or save 70,000 jobs, Governor. That's 70,000 people here in the state who won't go through the pain and suffering of a job loss.
But this is only going to happen if and when we pass our recovery act. And Ben assures me he's going to leave the frigid temperature here to go the warm halls of Congress and the Senate and get that done tonight or tomorrow. But quite frankly, folks, it's only going to work if we make those investments we need, not only in generating employment immediately, but also investing in an economy of the 21st century.
By boosting paychecks through the Make Work Pay tax cuts, we're going to put money in the pockets of middle-class people immediately. By making a down payment on the smart grid, we're not only going to invest in moving towards a new energy future, we're going to invest in clean energy. We're going to invest in creating jobs that are going to not be able to be exported. They're going to continue to grow. By weatherizing and retrofitting thousands of facilities, we're going to modernize over 10,000 schools in America. We're going to put money where we need it, in our nation's infrastructure.
Over $100 billion of this money is dedicated to infrastructure projects, many of which are ready to go right now. The point that Ben made, literally the spade can be turned or the steps can be pulled up the moment the Governor gets the money, because already the blueprints are done, the contractor ready to be let. We're going to move immediately.
Laurel is one of the thousands of rail and commuter stations all over the country where we need to make these improvements, creating jobs and creating a better transportation system for the 21st century. Over 400,000 jobs nationally will be created by the infrastructure investments that the Congress, God willing, is going to pass and the President is going to sign into law very shortly. Rebuilding train stations in my state and here, like this very one we're doing now, repairing roads, bridges, waterways, ports; investing -- investing -- in infrastructure that can carry the economic growth of the 21st century.
Now, we're here today not because Laurel is different from so many other places like it, but rather because it's typical of the sort of work we need to be doing in this country to rebuild the infrastructure and restart our economy. These are projects and critical needs that have been ignored for too long, and they are the backbone of building the economy for the future.
Now, there are some in Washington who still haven't gotten the message. Maybe they don't understand that America has lost almost 2 million jobs in the past four months -- 2 million jobs in the past four months; 30,000 jobs lost right here in Maryland in the last four months. Maybe they don't understand that we're in the midst of the worst economic recession in decades. Maybe they don't understand that the American people voted for and want change now, not tomorrow.
We can't go back to the failed approaches of tax breaks alone as the answer to our economic problems. The President and I support tax relief for the middle class. And the recovery act includes a down payment on those tax relief -- that tax relief. But the republic -- but the recovery act has to include prompt and substantial investment in job creation by building the economy of the 21st century.
So my message today is this: The economic policies of the past eight years are proven failures. The nation's economy is hurting. It needs action now. And we can't think small. We can't stand by and do nothing and we can't repeat the failures of the past. The Obama administration has asked the Congress to finish its work by the President's Day recess, by this weekend. And it's imperative -- it's imperative -- that we meet this deadline.
The American people are looking for us to act. And the time for us to do that is now. And the time for me to give you some relief from the cold is now, as well. The good news is I can take a couple questions. The bad news is you'll probably have to ask them.
Q Mr. Vice President, there are a number of lawmakers who feel that the bill doesn't go far enough in providing money for infrastructure and transportation. What are your thoughts about it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The question was a number of lawmakers think that we haven't gone far enough in providing money for infrastructure and transportation. I was one of those lawmakers. But the fact of the matter is we've put together a coherent package; $100 billion is significant investment.
And, look, we are -- we really have reached out. We reached out to our Republican friends. We reached out to Democrats in both the House and the Senate, and put together a package we think is balanced, and we think can pass and we think can pass quickly. There's no doubt in my mind that this $100 billion in infrastructure will, in fact, provide an incredible, immediate jolt to the economy that will have long-lasting effects.
So although we could argue on the margins whether we should do more or less, we have done a significant amount here. We got to get it passed, and get it passed now.
Q -- what more reaching out needs to be done --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, this is a process as you all know. I don't want to sound like an old senator here, but the fact of the matter is the process is halfway through. The House has done their work. They've submitted a bill that's going to be slightly different then what the Senate hopefully is going to pass tonight or tomorrow, and then we go to conference.
We're going to have to make some compromises. But we -- the administration are not -- it is not our moment. We submitted our bill. The House has acted on it; the Senate is acting now. And we will be a party to that what they call "conference," where they reconcile the differences between the House and Senate. And there have been some things added in the Senate and some things in the House that if we had our way they wouldn't have been added. But this is a matter of compromise.
But I think we have solid -- a solid basis with which to work with what the House passed, and what the Senate is about to pass. So it's -- I don't want to prematurely judge, since the Senate hasn't even finished their work yet, what we would like to see added, subtracted, or altered.
MS. ALEXANDER: This is the last question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't blame you for not wanting to ask one, it's cold.
Q -- and others criticized the package could be too small. Do you agree? Do you think that -- (inaudible) --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I don't know any serious economist left, right, and center, who doesn't think we need a package at least from $800 to $900 billion. Some argue it should be beyond that. We've concluded that this package should be less than $900 billion, that we can handle that, that that will be sufficient to create 3 to 4 million new jobs and jumpstart the economy.
But it is -- one thing is clear. The problem is gigantic. We are going to have essentially a $2 trillion shortfall in our GDP over the next two years; $800 to $900 billion is not excessive. It is not unreasonable to argue it should be more. I would argue it's unreasonable to think it should be less.
Thank you all very, very much. Appreciated your constitutions here against the cold.
Gentleman, thank you. And, ladies, thank you.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan
Creating Good Jobs by Modernizing Our Infrastructure
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is a nationwide effort to create jobs, jumpstart growth and transform our economy for the 21st century. Across the country, this plan will help businesses create jobs and families afford their bills while laying a foundation for future economic growth in key areas like health care, clean energy, education and a 21st century infrastructure.
NATIONAL Impact of Infrastructure Investments
A key driver of job creation in the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is the largest investment in America’s crumbling roads, bridges and transit lines since the creation of the national highway system. The infrastructure investments in the plan are designed to fund ready-to-go projects that can get money out into the economy quickly, while addressing longstanding infrastructure backlogs that are creating security risks for our citizens and a drag on economic growth.
· At least $100 billion to improve and upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, including mass transit systems, our highways, bridges and ports. [Source: White House Estimate]
· Create or save 400,000 jobs over the next two years. Jobs will be created by improving our mass transit systems, rebuilding roads, bridges, waterways, ports and more. [Source: White House Estimate based on Romer and Bernstein, “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” January 9, 2009.]
MARYLAND Impact of Infrastructure Investments
This historic infrastructure investment will provide direct, immediate support to Maryland, including:
· At least $400 million to improve Maryland’s highways, $100 million to upgrade and expand transit systems in Maryland and $150 million to invest in water and sewer projects in the state. [Source: White House Estimate]
· Funding sufficient to modernize at least 138 schools in Maryland so our children have the labs, classrooms and libraries they need to compete in the 21st century economy. [Source: White House Estimate]
NATIONAL OVERALL IMPACT OF THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT PLAN
The recovery plan will create and save jobs in the near future while addressing long-term needs that are critical to laying the foundation for a strong economic future. Specifically it will:
· Create or save 3 to 4 million jobs over the next two years. Independent analyses by Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s have confirmed that the recovery plan will meet this jobs goal. Jobs created will be in a range of industries from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector.
· Spend out at least 75% of the package in the first 18 months after passage. By including major fast-spending provisions like tax cuts for middle class families, measures to avoid state health care cuts, and temporary expansions of unemployment insurance, food stamps and health care for unemployed workers, the package will spend out at least 75% of its total commitment within the first 18 months after passage. The Administration will work with Congress to refine this package to ensure that it meets this 75% goal.
· Double renewable energy generating capacity over three years, creating enough renewable energy to power 6 million American homes.
· Computerize every American’s health record in five years, reducing medical errors and saving billions of dollars in health care costs.
· Launch the most ambitious school modernization program on record, sufficient to upgrade 10,000 schools.
· Enact the largest investment increase in our nation’s roads, bridges and mass transit systems since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950.
maryland overall Impact OF THE RECOVERY PLAN:
The national economic crisis has devastated states across the country, and Maryland is no exception. Unemployment in Maryland is at a 15-year high, up 60 percent over the past year. In just the last four months, the state has lost more than 30,000 jobs. The recovery and reinvestment plan is urgently needed to help stem this downturn and jumpstart job creation across the state. Overall, the plan will:
· Create or save 70,000 jobs over the next two years. Jobs created will be in a range of industries from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector. [Source: White House Estimate based on Romer and Bernstein, “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” January 9, 2009.]
· Jobs created or saved include about 9,500 in Maryland’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Laurel.
· Provide a Making Work Pay tax cut of up to $1,000 for 2,210,000 Maryland workers and their families. The plan will make a down payment on the President’s Making Work Pay tax cut for 95% of workers and their families, designed to pay out immediately into workers’ paychecks. [Source: White House Estimate based on IRS Statistics of Income]
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.