Biden: Use stimulus money wisely or lose it

By: By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer
By: By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday the Obama administration is determined to speed the $787 billion in stimulus money to Americans clamoring for economic relief, with checks going to states for Medicaid and the next batch of dollars heading to housing.

Meeting with top members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet, Biden warned that he plans to use "the moral approbation of this office" to make sure the huge fund of stimulus money is put to use creating jobs and rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. He said the administration's goal is to ensure the money "gets out the door quickly and wisely."

"As we go along," Biden told the assembled government officials, "I'm going to be a bit of a pain in the neck."

He said he would call the group together each week to report to him on how the massive stimulus fund was being used, saying he would not "hesitate to go on television" to embarrass those in the federal, state and local governments who were misspending the money or not using it quickly enough.

Earlier Wednesday, Biden warned that if states don't use federal stimulus money as intended, the Obama administration may take the money back.

Appearing Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Biden said the money "cannot be squandered" and warned that states will be held to unprecedented accountability.

Some Republican governors have criticized the plan as wasteful and several have said they may reject some of the funds.

Biden said a next installment of the stimulus money, $10 billion, was being sent out through the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday to help states make homes more energy efficient and to put money into programs to check for dangerous lead paint in housing.

Peter Orszag, the president's budget director, sitting to Biden's right in the White House Roosevelt room, said he intended to ensure that Americans know how the money is being spent through the recovery.gov Web site, which he said already is receiving some 3,000 hits each second. He joined Biden in declaring there would be unprecedented transparency in spending the stimulus money.

Biden recalled that Obama said in his speech to Congress Tuesday that no one should "mess with Joe" in his role as overseer of stimulus spending, But turning to Earl Devaney, the new chairman of the stimulus plan accountability board, Biden said: "This is the guy to don't mess with," patting the former Interior Department inspector general on the back. Devaney disclosed a messy sex and drugs scandal in the department during the Bush administration.


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