Wednesday, February 18, 2009
President Obama signs $787 billion economic stimulus bill
DENVER — President Obama has not ruled out a second stimulus package, his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said on Tuesday, just before Mr. Obama signed his $787 billion recovery package into law with a statement that it would “set our economy on a firmer foundation.”
The president said he would not pretend “that today marks the end of our economic problems.”
“Nor does it constitute all of what we have to do to turn our economy around,” Mr. Obama said at the signing ceremony in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. “But today does mark the beginning of the end, the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the way of layoffs.”
Mr. Gibbs, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Denver, said, “I think the president is going to do what’s necessary to grow this economy.” While “there are no particular plans at this point for a second stimulus package,” he added, “I wouldn’t foreclose it.”
Mr. Obama began the first leg of a two-day trip, using the museum ceremony to spotlight the bill’s clean-energy provisions. The president will also visit Phoenix, where he will unveil his new housing plan on Wednesday.
After a bruising legislative battle on the stimulus bill, which drew only three supporting votes from Republicans in the Senate and none in the House, the White House is trying to recapture the debate over the economy. Mr. Obama’s message is that the bill will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years.
While the bill has been criticized by conservatives as bloated with pork-barrel spending, it has also been criticized by the left as too tepid and not bold enough to jumpstart the economy. Mr. Gibbs’s remarks on the plane seemed to echo that concern.
In describing the package, the press secretary called it “a strong start towards economic viability” and “the beginning of getting our economy back on track.”
While he was still president-elect, Mr. Obama originally envisioned spending somewhere between $675 billion and $775 billion on the recovery package, and the final number comes close to that. But the bill approved by Congress included $70 billion in tax cuts, which some economists believe will not create as many new jobs as $70 billion in spending would.
The Denver-Phoenix swing is meant to put the spotlight on the difficulties faced by ordinary Americans around the country. In Denver, the unemployment rate jumped to 6.3 percent at the end of last year from 5.8 percent in November. The city has been hard-hit by foreclosures — in December, metropolitan Denver had more foreclosures than regular home sales — and so has Phoenix.
Before the signing ceremony, Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. toured a solar-panel installation and visited with officials of Namaste Solar, a Boulder-based company that the White House has singled out in an effort to spotlight the legislation’s clean energy provisions.
The company, owned by its staff, has grown quickly, expanding to 60 from three employees over the past three years. The White House says that without the stimulus bill, Namaste expected to lay off as many as half its workers in 2009. The bill will enable the company to hire 20 additional workers, the administration said.
-New York Times