REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
SUBJECT: AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT PLAN
ALSO PRESENT: RAY LAHOOD, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION; SENATOR BEN CARDIN (D-MD); MARYLAND GOVERNOR MARTIN O'MALLEY (D)
LAUREL MARC STATION
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GOV. O'MALLEY: Thank you all very, very much for being here in Laurel, Maryland. I really want to thank Vice President Biden for being here today, to underscore the importance of President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It is great to be here also with Secretary LaHood, who's joining us, and Senator Ben Cardin.
We're here today to support President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. It is one of the most important pieces of legislation in a generation. This is about strengthening and growing the ranks of an upwardly mobile class in our country. It is about our families and it is about our future.
If we truly want to see the end of this recession, if we truly want America's economy to recover, then we must make investments today that will bring our economy back.
China invests 9 percent of its gross domestic product in infrastructure; India, 5 percent; sadly the United States in recent years investing only 2 percent.
Here in Maryland, the funding in this legislation will allow us to make crucial improvements to our road, our bridges, our tunnels, our public transit systems, like this very MARC station that we toured today.
Every single day, commuters pass through this station. They rely upon it not only to go to work but also to save money, to get out of their cars, to be able to put bread on their family's table and to make sure that they reduce their commuting expenses at the same time.
The funds in the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, at this site, are part of the investments that, here in Maryland, would sustain 20,000 infrastructure-related jobs, 20,000 infrastructure-related jobs. And it would provide more than a billion for our roads, our bridges, our mass transit, flood control, clean water project. And that's not all it would mean for Maryland.
The fiscal stabilization aspects of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Obama and Vice President Obama or Vice President Biden are pushing would help sustain 70,000 jobs.
It would help more than 2 million Marylanders struggling to pay their bills. It would help make the dreams of colleges more real and available to more families. And it would provide also assistance, additional assistance for families that find themselves facing unemployment.
It is now my honor to be able to introduce one of our outstanding U.S. Senators, from Maryland, a man who is in the halls of Congress leading this fight every day, making sure that we put an end to this recession by supporting President Obama.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. (Applause.)
SEN. CARDIN: Governor O'Malley, thank you very much.
Vice President Biden, I want you to know that in Maryland, we have a governor who will take the help that's coming, from Washington, and will turn it immediately into good jobs for our community and the right investments for America's future.
We're very proud of Governor O'Malley's leadership during these extremely difficult and challenging times. He's made the tough decisions that we need for the people of Maryland, and he's prepared to be your partner in bringing our economy back on track.
Mr. Vice President, thank you for being here in Laurel. We appreciate it very much.
The Vice President was telling me about his roots in Maryland. His family -- he has family that grew up in Baltimore. I always considered Joe Biden to be a Marylander in part, because every working day he spent a couple of hours traveling through our state. (Laughter.) So we know he understands Maryland, he understands transit.
And he also understands the economic challenges this nation is facing: people losing their jobs, homeowners in danger of losing their homes, small business owners trying to figure out how they're going to be able to stay in business. He understands the urgency for bold federal action.
The revitalization bill that's currently before the United States Senate is needed for our country. It is targeted, targeted to the types of investments that America needs in order for our economy to be able to compete internationally. It is timely, in that it will create jobs now that are desperately needed for our economy. And it's temporary, because we know we need to restore fiscal discipline in Washington.
And one more thing you're going to see in the Obama administration, and that's accountability: that the money will be used in the right way, and a timely way.
Now, we're here at Laurel on this station which is an example of how Maryland will put the money to work immediately in the right manner. This project here in restoring the Laurel station is timely. The governor will get workers here immediately upon the federal funds, to do the work. It will create jobs.
It's targeted. Mr. Vice President, this station was built in '84 -- not 1984, 1884 -- by C&O. It's in desperate need of change. The MARC station here is the busiest on the Camden line. This is -- people want to use the station. We need to take it and give the services that they need.
And it's temporary. Once it's done, we're going to have a more efficient system for our transit needs, for our energy policy, to get people out of their cars and to save energy and to become energy independent.
And one more thing: It may even save some health dollars, because we have people literally fall through the platforms here, causing health care costs. So this is going to be a win-win-win situation.
And we thank you very much for your bold leadership. And we thank you for who you selected to be the secretary of Transportation, my former colleague in the House of Representatives, Ray LaHood.
He's a -- he was a great legislator, served both on the Appropriations Committee and on the Transportation Committee. He is respected by Democrats and Republicans alike; a great leader for Transportation in our nation: Ray LaHood.
SEC. LAHOOD: Well, thank you very much, Senator. This is an important time in the country's history and an important time to invest wisely for the sake of our children and our children's children. That is why the president has proposed an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to immediately stimulate job creation and foster long-term economic growth.
A key component of the plan is enacting the largest investment in America's roads, bridges, transit lines since the creation of the Interstate Highway System. Our goal is to help jump-start the economy by getting money out the door for projects that are ready to go, projects that have met the environmental standards, projects that have gone through all the necessary paperwork, so that people can begin working this spring, summer and fall.
At my direction, we've already set up within the Department of Transportation a multi-modal economic recovery team to help make sure that economic recovery funds for transportation are spent rapidly, legally and wisely. The team, which, by the way, calls itself the TIGER team -- Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery -- will also be responsible for developing common reporting standards and tracking highway, road, bridge, transit rail, aviation and intermodal investments directed by the economic recovery act.
I've asked all 50 state secretaries of transportation to come to Washington next Wednesday, where we will -- we want to emphasize accountability, and we're going to do things by the book. And that will be our message next week. We need to get the money out the door and done correctly.
Just like this new rail project in Laurel, there are critical transportation projects all over the country that are just waiting for funding. And while we create jobs today, we are also laying the foundation for sustained economic growth and a better quality of life through passenger, freight, and high-speed rail and transit systems that ease congestion on the roads and in the air and through the airports, and also other important projects.
Mr. Vice President, I thank you and President Obama for your commitment to our nation's economic -- and doing it through our transportation system. And now it's my honor to introduce a true friend of transportation, a man who's ridden these rails for so many years to and from work as a United States senator, the Honorable Joseph Biden -- Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you very much. Mr. Mayor, thanks for the passport (we get ?) in town here. And governor, it's a delight to be with you.
And Ben Cardin pointed out -- Senator Cardin -- a thing -- said 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 to be able to be -- move your pens. So I figure if I talk long enough, you won't be able to report a thing I say.
But ladies and gentlemen, I'll be straight to the point. Thanks for coming here today. And as you're standing here today, it's an understatement to say the economy's 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 (million) 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 to 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 the 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. There's already -- the blueprints are done, the contracts are 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 investment 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 -- by 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 -- 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 Presidents' 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. Yes?
Q (Off mike) -- a number of lawmakers who feel that the bill doesn't go far enough -- (off mike). How do you respond to -- (off mike)?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: The question was, there -- 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, a hundred billion dollars. It's 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 hundred billion dollars 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 (Off mike.)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: 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 -- they've submitted a bill that's going to be slightly different than 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 a solid -- a solid basis (from ?) which to work: what the -- what the House passed and what the Senate's about to pass.
So it's -- it's -- I -- I -- 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.
Q (Off mike.)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: I don't blame you for not wanting to ask one. It's cold.
Q (Off mike.)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: 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 jump-start the economy. But it is -- one thing is clear. The problem is gigantic. We are going to have what's 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 -- appreciating your constitutions here (in this ?) -- the cold. Gentlemen, thank you, and ladies, thank you.