President Obama continued to hammer away on the need for speedy passage of the economic stimulus package Tuesday, Feb. 11, after visiting a construction site in Springfield, Virginia.
In his remarks there, Obama chastised Congress for delaying the passage of the recovery package. ‘The time for talk has passed. Now is the time to take bold and swift action,’ he said.
Citing the specific impact of the recession on Virginia, the president argued that the stimulus package would aid the state’s working families, put people back to work and improve the quality of life.
‘We know that with investment we can create transportation and communications systems for the 20th century,’ he added.
Obama turned the subject to the fiscal problems states face. Unemployed workers are filing in record numbers for jobless and health care benefits that are in part funded by states, putting a greater strain on state budgets than ever before.
Investments in construction projects will stimulate new economic activity in manufacturing, local small business, and other sectors, Obama emphasized.
Further, the president reiterated his pledge to make the provisions of the economic recovery package open to public scrutiny by posting details to a new White House Web site at .
Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told Fox News that a deal may be close on the stimulus. “I am hopeful and believe that we’ll try to come to an agreement on the differences that exist and have a bill by the end of the day that both houses can vote on,’ he said.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told other reporters that an agreement on a final bill could come within 24 hours.
The joint House and Senate committee was scheduled to meet in the afternoon of Feb. 11 to reconcile the different economic recovery packages passed in each House. The House package favors more direct stimulus spending with a smaller proportion of tax cuts than the Senate package.
Supporters of the economic stimulus argue that more direct spending in the economy is needed to have a faster and more direct impact on job creation. For every dollar spent by the government directly in the economy, experts estimate that at least $1.36 is generated in additional economic activity. In contrast, tax cuts, though beneficial for working families, would primarily be spent on debts for past goods and services and would directly stimulate less new economic activity.
The Senate version of the bill also sharply reduced the amount of aid to the states almost by half the amount allocated in the House version. The Obama administration argued that substantial aid to states is a crucial piece of the recovery package because direct aid would allow states to avoid job-killing budget cuts or higher taxes in order to balance their budgets.
In an interview this week with Black Enterprise magazine, President Obama argued that aid to the states should be boosted in the final version of the bill because it will create or save more jobs. “State governments are seeing their budgets hemorrhage and we’re going to have to give them help so that they don’t lay off workers who, in turn, stop spending which, in turn, has enormous impact on the private sector,” Obama told that magazine.
“I think it is very important for us to make sure that we’re getting these countercyclical payments in place to ensure that teachers, police officers and firefighters aren’t being laid off and that states can absorb the increased numbers of people who require unemployment insurance as well as healthcare support,” he concluded.