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President Obama Delivers Address on Stimulus Package
Aired February 05, 2009 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: President Obama pushing his stimulus plan.
In the next few minutes, we're going to hear his entire speech live.
Bullet point number one tonight: the president in Williamsburg, Virginia. As we said, he will speaking in a moment to Democrats. Earlier today, he was signaling do it my way and do it now attitude.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for talk is over. The time for action is now, because we know that, if we do not act, a bad situation will become dramatically worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Bullet point number two: more breaking news on Capitol Hill, senators working all night, if they have to. The president's rescue plan apparently needs rescuing.
Check out today's pushback on the Senate floor. The Republicans are now on the attack and sounding like they're out for blood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a skunk. This bill stinks.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If this is the new way of doing business, if this is the change we all can believe in, America's best days are behind her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And bullet point number three tonight: A U.S. Supreme Court justice has cancer for the second time in 10 years.
Tonight, justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is recovering from surgery for pancreatic cancer. Doctors say it was in an early stage. And we're going to about what this may mean for the court coming up as well.
And bullet point number four tonight: We have got newly released unbelievable recordings of the air-to-ground conversations from the day U.S. Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1529, turn right 2-8-0. You can land runway one at Teterboro.
PILOT: We can't do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Which runway would you like at Teterboro?
PILOT: We're going to be in the Hudson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: "We're going to be in the Hudson."
We are going to get to all of that a little bit later. But we do start with tonight's breaking news. We expect President Obama to start speaking any minute now.
And for what the president will say tonight, senior White House correspondent Ed Henry has the inside story on that. What are we expecting, Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, the behind-the-scenes stagecraft really tells the story.
The White House had been planning for this to be closed to TV cameras, just going to be a private pep talk to House Democrats. But, in the last 24 hours, they decided to open it up to TV cameras, in part because Democrats -- some Democrats are privately saying this president is losing the message war to Republicans over the stimulus package.
So, now the audience is not just the Democrats in the room. It's the American people across the country. He's trying to reach out to them. This is his first trip. This trip to Williamsburg is his first trip aboard Air Force one.
He was sporting his new official jacket that has his name across the breast in script. And he was previewing his message to reporters on the way there. It's all about urgency, urgency for this president. It's his first major initiative.
He obviously wants to win this, and he's been talking about winning it on a bipartisan basis, but also urgency for the country. He's trying to make the case that an economic crisis can turn into a catastrophe without drastic action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think it is important to make sure that the recovery package is of sufficient size to do what's needed to create jobs.
We lost half-a-million jobs each month for two consecutive months. And things could continue to decline. And we will know the number tomorrow. Every economist, even those who may quibble with the details of the makeup in a package, will agree that, if you have got a trillion dollars in lost demand this year, and a trillion dollars lost demand next year, then you have got to have a big enough recovery package to actually make up for all of those lost jobs and lost demand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, even though all the action tonight is in the U.S. Senate, the president reaching out to House Democrats, because, if it gets through tonight, it's eventually going to make its way back to the House.
There have been a lot of changes to the stimulus package in the Senate. Some of the House Democrats who were with him last week may be concerned about those changes, so the lobbying effort to get their votes next week begins right now -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right, Ed Henry for us from the White House tonight -- Ed, thanks.
And while the president gets ready to speak in Virginia, there's also breaking news back in Washington. It looks as if the Senate may pull an all-nighter to try to force the president's economic stimulus plan through.
Let's quickly go now to senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash at the Capitol.
And, Dana, where do things stand?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there was a meeting of bipartisan senators, a real big one. They were trying to find compromise.
I just walked in and bumped into a senator who was involved in that. And I said, how is it going? And he said nowhere. This group is actually having a lot of trouble, Campbell, finding compromise on what they're trying to do, which is slash about $100 billion in spending to make this more palatable for a lot of senators.
Now, the Senate majority leader did announce that he's going to possibly keep the Senate in all night. And Democrats tell me the strategy is simple. He's trying to wear senators down. He's trying to force them to find compromise, because what's going on here is that President Obama and the Democratic leadership, they just don't have the votes right now in the Senate to pass his economic stimulus plan.
And get this. I just spoke with Democratic sources. And they say despite that, they might actually take a risk and hold the vote even though they know that it's possible it might fail, just to see what happens here in the Senate.
It's highly unlikely that the Democrats really want this to fail, but they say they might just take the risk and try to force some of these senators to choose whether or not they want to vote against the president at this time.
One thing we do know is that the president's top priority is really in limbo right now in the Senate -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right, Dana Bash for us from the Capitol tonight -- Dana, thanks.
There is certainly a sense of urgency about tonight's speech by the president, which we are going to bring you live in a few minutes, his economic stimulus plan taking a real beating from Republicans as they sense the public may be coming around to their view that so much spending to boost the economy is a huge waste of money.
Just a couple weeks ago, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was singing the president's praises. Well, not anymore. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm here today to point out the fact that this is not bipartisanship. This process that we're engaging in is not smart. We're not working together.
We're about to spend $800 or $900 billion and nobody's got a clue where we're going to land, and we have got to do it by tonight.
So, I am telling you right now that if this is a solution to George Bush's problems, the country's going to get worse. If this is the new way of doing business, if this is the change we all can believe in, America's best days are behind her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Some very tough words there. So, what exactly is the problem?
As we wait for the president's speech to begin, Tom Foreman has a look at the sticking points that are keeping this bill from passing and may keep the Senate there working all night tonight.
Tom, what do you got?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure could, Campbell.
The sticking point is this. Republicans think this bill contains too much money for Democrats' pet projects and not enough to actually stimulate the economy.
Examples they have been flinging around -- and all this has been changing by the hour, it seems -- on the energy front, $600 million for hybrid vehicles for federal employees, $2 billion for a low- emissions coal power plant, and $6 billion to make federal buildings more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, some of the examples that they're hot about.
On public health, $75 million to help people stop smoking, $25 million to reduce alcohol and drug abuse on Indian reservations, and more than $900 million to renovate buildings at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. The list goes on, $1 billion in extra money for the next census, a quarter- billion for payments to Filipino World War II veterans.
Many Republicans say these are fine programs, but they don't belong in this bill. That is what has got them hung up, because they say these won't create a lot of jobs.
Listen to what they were saying just tonight over at the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: As the spending in this bill grows, it's become a honey pot for every conceivable special interest group in this unprecedented environment of national crises.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Democrats say that these are the same old Republican complaints, and what the Republicans always want are tax cuts, and that will not work now.
Democrats say this really is smart spending in areas that can grow rapidly, like green technology, and it will create jobs and help us with things like better health care in the meantime. The president said this about Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When you hear these attacks, deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself, are these folks serious?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Raising the tension even more, hundreds of interest groups which might benefit from this money, and countless private citizens who have real feelings about this on one side or the other have been jamming the phones at the Capitol with calls trying to influence the final decision on what gets spent where.
Campbell, this is quite a showdown to come in the first two weeks of a new presidency.
BROWN: It is, indeed. Tom Foreman for us tonight -- Tom, thanks.
We're going to take a very quick break as we wait for President Obama to speak, again, this major speech, as he tries to turn the tide back in his favor with regard to his stimulus package. We will be bringing you that speech live.
And, meanwhile, why is the speech taking place at a luxury resort with Democratic lawmakers? We're "Cutting Through The Bull" on that one when we come back.
BROWN: These are pictures from earlier tonight.
We're still waiting for President Obama to speak. And we're going to bring that to you live in just a few minutes.
But, first, tonight, we are "Cutting Through The Bull." And leave it to members of Congress to be completely daft, entirely clueless, and unbelievably out of touch.
I mean, seriously, only a member of Congress can make a Wall Street executive seem like a sympathetic figure these days. And, boy, do they make my job easy. Yes, while our representatives have been jumping up and down screaming about excesses of Wall Street, condemning those corporate boondoggle trips to luxurious resorts, what do they do? They all go away on a retreat together to a luxurious resort.
First, it was Republicans who last week decamped to the lovely Homestead resort. Check out these pictures, pretty swank, famous for its golf, fly-fishing and luxurious accommodations. Not to be outdone, Democrats today retreated to the fabulous Kingsmill Resort & Spa near Williamsburg, Virginia, with its very own golf course and five-star amenities as well.
Now, in fairness, members do pay for lodging with personal funds or their campaign accounts. But, yes, taxpayers do foot the bill for some of the expenses for these little getaways. For example, according to Politico.com, we all paid about $70,000 for Democrats to take the train down to last year's getaway. And then they racked up phone and Internet bills of more than $40,000 on our dime, not to mention the enormous security costs, which are even higher this year, with the president and vice president both stopping by.
So, how exactly in this economic climate Congress could possibly see the need to all go on a spa retreat together is, frankly, beyond me. Their offices are next door to one another. They see each other every day. Yes, of course, they have important business to do on behalf of all of us. But can't they do that in Washington?
And, at the very least, members of Congress, don't any of you get how bad this looks, how terrible the optics are? In the middle of an economic crisis, not a single one of you says, hey, maybe this is the year we skip the luxurious resort getaway and just hunker down here at home?
And these are the people we are counting on to get us out of this mess.
We are going to take another very quick break before President Obama's speech about his economic rescue plan. We will carry that live.
And, then, a little bit later, the tape recordings that everybody is talking about. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PILOT: This is cactus 1539. Hit birds. We have lost thrust in both engines. Returning back towards La Guardia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You need to return to La Guardia?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: They didn't make it, as we all know, but everyone survived. We are going to have more of that unforgettable air-to- ground conversations from the day U.S. Airways Flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson River when we come back.
BROWN: And you are looking right there at a live picture of the Democrats' annual retreat. This is the House Democratic Caucus in Williamsburg, Virginia.
You can see President Obama there working the crowd a little bit. He's about to speak to Democrats to rally the troops around his stimulus plan. We are going to bring you that entire speech live.
And, as we said, his mission tonight is, get Democrats on board and try to disarm critics who say that he's lost the upper hand in the debate on the economy.
Earlier today, the president urged Congress to act and to act now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So, I'm calling on all the members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate -- to rise to this moment. No plan's perfect. There have been constructive changes made to this one over the last several weeks. I would love to see additional improvements today.
But the scale and the scope of this plan is the right one. Our approach to energy is the right one. It's what America needs right now, and we need to move forward today.
We can't keep on having the same, old arguments over and over again that lead us to the exact same spot, where we are wasting precious energy, we're not creating jobs, we're failing to compete in the global economy, and we end up bickering at a time when the economy urgently needs action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, joining me right now, as we watch those live pictures from Virginia, to talk about this huge test for the Obama administration, members of the best political team on television. CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger with us tonight, along with Republican strategist Kevin Madden, our chief national correspondent, John King, and Errol Louis, columnist from "The New York Daily News" with me here in New York.
Gloria, earlier this week, the president himself admitted that he needed to get back on track. How did he lose control of this debate? And what does he have to do to reclaim the momentum here?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he did lose control of his own message, Campbell.
While he was reaching out to Republicans in a bipartisan way, they decided to take a look at the package. And what they found in the package was a lot of spending, some of which they liked, but some of which they decided was not particularly stimulative, other which they thought was just pork. And, so, they found their talking points.
They found their own voice when the president lost his voice. And what they decided to do was say, look, this package doesn't have enough tax cuts, and it doesn't have the kind of spending in it that's going to jolt the economy right away, which is what the president really wants to do.
So, he had a problem. And now he's trying to come back and say, look, the scope and the size of this is exactly what we need. We can quibble about the details, but we better do this now, or a crisis is going to turn into a catastrophe, as he says.
BROWN: John, President Obama has been saying essentially the same thing every day. Swift, bold action, that's been the message. You cannot wait. There's an urgency about it.
And you have been out in Indiana talking to union workers. How desperate are things getting for them? What are you hearing from them?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I sat down with two workers at General Motors today, Campbell, who will meet with their bosses tomorrow. The company is trying to convince them to take a buyout. They don't want to do it.
They say they can't afford it. It's not a long-term plan for them. They need the economy to come back, so that General Motors is making more cars, so that their jobs are secure. They want something done now.
I'm in Carmel, Indiana, a small city just north of Indianapolis. There's a Republican mayor here, not a fan of President Obama necessarily before the election. He says he needs the money now.
But as Gloria just noted, he also says there are some things in this bill that don't create jobs. And the House Democratic plan gave Republicans a few pinatas that have prolonged this debate. And many Democrats have been saying, Campbell, in Washington privately to the White House, why is he in Washington? Get out in the country. Come to a state like Indiana, where I am.
The unemployment rate is now above 8 percent. So, you see the president out tonight. Mayors, governors say they want the money immediately, but even Republican mayors and Republican governors don't always have the ear of Republicans in Washington, who think they have some valid points to fight on here.
BROWN: And, Kevin, you know, Republicans, to John's point, see blood in the water. Just a couple of weeks ago, you had Senator Lindsey Graham comparing President Obama to Ronald Reagan.
But listen. I want to play this, a little bit of what he said today in an interview with FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS)
GRAHAM: It is a broken process. And the president, as far as I'm concerned, has been AWOL in providing leadership on something as important as this.
If this is bipartisanship, count me out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, what a difference two weeks makes. What happened there?
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, that's just as emblematic as President Obama's troubles right now as anything.
Lindsey Graham has a reputation for being in the room when bipartisan coalitions are forged. So, the fact that you have somebody like Lindsey Graham on the outside playing in the margins right now just underscores just how wide the gap is up on Capitol Hill.
Look, the biggest problem right now is that Barack Obama is overpolling this particular bill by about 30 points. About two days ago, he was overpolling it by about 20 points. The public has -- the more they learn about this bill, the less they like it.
So, Barack Obama's big challenge tonight is to finally take ownership over this, use his high approval ratings to somehow muster some sort of public opinion behind the bill, and to go out there and really, you know, take that case beyond just the 200, 300 Democrats in the room and take it to the American people. That, I still think is a very, very difficult challenge for him.
BROWN: And, Errol, House Democrats didn't make it easy when they did put a lot of pork in this thing that he then had to try to figure out how to deal with. And it gave Republicans plenty of ammunition.
ERROL LOUIS, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well, I think that's the pure politics of it.
On the other hand, there's a lot in here that's being attacked by Republicans that is absolutely indefensible. When they're attacking -- this is, I think, an outgrowth of Republicans spending a generation attacking government. Government is always the problem.
So, when you see $400 million to build a headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, they are calling that pork -- $125 million to fix the sewers in Washington, D.C., they are calling that pork.
BROWN: But there are other things in there, Errol, you have got to admit.
LOUIS: Right. But they -- the Republicans I think have been good at portraying small, really insignificant, less than 1 percent, as the president has pointed out, as constituting the whole package.
MADDEN: If I can just make a point on that...
LOUIS: And when the job numbers come out tomorrow, and this nation confronts about 7.5 percent unemployment and rising, I think that's going to probably do the job better than anything the president can say tonight to convince the country that this is frivolous to nitpick these little projects that some Republican doesn't want.
BROWN: But, at the same time, do you think, given the job numbers we're likely to see tomorrow, why can't that 1 percent get with the program, like everybody else?
Go ahead, Kevin.
MADDEN: Well, look, we had a robust debate during this last election about whether or not people had the right spending priorities in Washington.
And we all remember the debate over a $250 million bridge to nowhere. There are like 10 $250 million bridges to nowhere in this bill. So, that just goes to show you why the public has actually lost faith in this.
MADDEN: This has become a bill that signifies what is wrong with Washington. It's not solution-orientated and it's partisan by nature.
BROWN: We should -- let me just tell viewers, we're watching House Speaker Nancy Pelosi there speak to the caucus. And we're waiting for President Obama to take the podium. He should be up very shortly.
But, Gloria, you were jumping in. Go ahead.
BORGER: Well, I was going to say, I think the president has had to deal with eight years of pent-up Democratic demand for programs.
Suddenly, they saw this, particularly in the House, as an opportunity to spend money without really having to account for it. And I think, in a way, he paid a little too much attention to those folks.
But what the president has to do right now, as someone was saying earlier, is take this to the American people in a Ronald Reagan-like way. Set up the stakes in this, and say, look, we have to all get together, because, if we don't pass something, we're all going to really be in trouble.
And he's very good at taking it to the American people, which is why he's having a press conference next week and perhaps even an address from the Oval Office.
BROWN: Would that work, John King, where you are, from what you're hearing from people, or are they going to see that as like another public relations sort of ploy and not really getting at the heart of what they need?
KING: Now, there's a great deal of goodwill for this president. As Kevin said, his approval ratings are still quite high.
So, when he speaks to the American people, they listen. Again, there's a Republican mayor in this town. It's more conservative in the city. And people say, he's our president. We may not have voted for him. We want him to succeed. And we would like those jobs to build some roads, to build some schools, to build some other projects right here in this small city.
The problem for the president is, Republicans -- he's going to get his bill, Campbell. He has the votes in the House. He has the votes in the Senate. He will get his bill. But because there were some things that the Republicans say they can legitimately latch on to for a fight, their challenge now is to see -- the Republicans in Washington are saying, let's see if the president can take control of his own party, get a bill that's a different bill, call the Republicans' bluff.
The Republican calculation is, how much capital can we make this new president spend in his first big fight?
BROWN: And what happens? He will get the bill, Errol, but if he doesn't get it with bipartisan support, what does that mean longer term for his agenda?
LOUIS: Well, there's an evolving theory that I happen to subscribe to, which is that he can get bipartisanship, but he is going to have to in the first phase of his relationship with this Congress really show who's in charge. And only after that he's made clear that he has got the votes, that he will do it his own way, if he has to, without any Republican support, as he did in the House last week, once he makes that clear, I think there may be some Republicans who maybe think a little bit more broadly about what their responsibilities are to their constituents.
When you see Lindsey Graham up there posturing on television, he has got counties in South Carolina where unemployment is at 20 percent. It's the third highest unemployment of all the states in the country. And for him to say that spending money to put people to work is somehow wasteful, I don't think that's going to wash in the long- term.
BROWN: All right, guys, let's take a moment and check in again.
This is in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the Democratic Caucus gathering. You're watching President Obama take the stage. And he's about to begin the speech to rally Democrats around his stimulus plan. Let's listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
OBAMA: Thank you, Democrats.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Hey. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you.
Please, everybody have a seat. Everybody have a seat.
It is great to be here with so many friends. Thank you for giving me a reason to use Air Force One.
It's pretty nice.
I'm glad to see the House Democratic Caucus is getting by just fine without my chief of staff.
I don't know how many of you were at the Alfalfa Dinner, but I pointed out this whole myth of Rahm being this tough guy, mean, is just not true.
At least once a week, he spends time teaching profanity to underprivileged children.
So, he's got a soft spot.
I want to thank John Larson for inviting me here tonight. This is John's first conference as chairman of the Democratic Caucus.
So, we're both new at this.
I want to acknowledge the great speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: She's our rock, who has proven to be an extraordinary leader for the American people.
And I want to thank Nancy, and Steny Hoyer, and Jim Clyburn, and the entire caucus, Xavier Becerra...
... all the leadership working so hard.
All the -- all the chairmen, like David Obey, who have worked so hard in passing an economic recovery plan that is so desperately needed for our country.
All of you acted with a discipline that matches the urgency and the gravity of the crisis that we face because you know what's at stake. Every weekend you go home to your districts and you see factories that are closing and small businesses shutting their doors. You hear from families losing their homes, students that can't pay their tuition, seniors who are worrying about whether they can retire with dignity, or see their kids and grandkids lead a better life.
So you went to work and you did your job. For that, you have my appreciation and admiration and more importantly you've got the American people's thanks because they know it is time to get something done here in Washington.
As we meet here tonight, we know that there's more work to be done. The Senate is still acting. And after it has its final vote, we still need to resolve differences between the House and Senate bills. So we're going to still have to work and I am going to urge you to complete that work without delay. And I know that Nancy and Steny, all the rest of the leadership is committed to making that happen.
Now, I just want to say this. I value the constructive criticism and the healthy debate that's taking place around this package because that's the essence, the foundation of American democracy. That's how the founders set it up. They set it up to make big change hard.
It wasn't supposed to be easy. That's part of the reason why we got such a stable government is because no one party, no one individual can simply dictate the terms of the debate.
I don't think any of us here have cornered the market on wisdom or do I believe that good ideas are the province of any party. The American people know that our challenges are great. They're not expecting Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They want American solutions.
I've said that same thing to the public, and I've said that in a gesture of friendship and goodwill to those who have disagreed with me on aspects of this plan. But what I have also said is don't come to the table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped to create this crisis.
You know, all of us are imperfect and everything we do and everything I do is subject to improvement. Michelle reminds me every day how imperfect I am. So I welcome this debate but, come on, we're not -- we are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin.
We can -- we can embrace -- we can embrace the losing formula that says only tax cuts will work for every problem we face that ignores critical challenges like our addiction to foreign oil or the soaring cost of health care or falling schools and crumbling bridges and roads and levees. I don't care whether you're driving a hybrid or an SUV. If you're headed for a cliff, you've got to change direction. That's what the American people called for in November and that's what we intend to deliver.
The American people are watching. They did not send us here to get bogged down with the same old delay, the same old distractions, the same talking points, the same cable chatter. You know, aren't you all tired of that stuff? They did not vote for the false theories of the past, and they didn't vote for phony arguments and petty politics. They didn't vote for the status quo. They sent us here to bring change. We owe it to them to deliver.
This is the moment for leadership that matches the great test of our times, and I know you want to work with me to get there.
If we do not move swiftly to sign the American recovery and reinvestment act into law, an economy that is already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe. This is not my assessment. This is not Nancy Pelosi's assessment. This is the assessment of the best economists in the country. This is the assessment of some of the former advisers of some of the same folks who are making these criticisms right now. Millions more Americans will lose their jobs. Homes will be lost. Families will go without health care. Our crippling dependence on foreign oil will continue. That is the price of inaction.
This isn't some abstract debate. Last week, we learned that many of America's largest corporations already laid off thousands and are planning to lay off tens of thousands of more workers. Today, we learned that in the previous week the number of new unemployment claims jumped to 626,000. Tomorrow, we're expecting another dismal jobs report on top of the half a million jobs that were lost last month on top of the half a million jobs lost the month before that, on top of the 2.6 million jobs that were lost last year.
For you, these aren't just statistics. This is not a game. This is not a contest for who's in power and who's up and who's down. These are your constituents. These are families you know and you care about.
I believe that it is important for us to set aside some of the gamesmanship in this town and get something done.
Now, I believe --
I just want to repeat because I don't want any confusion here. I believe that legislation of this enormous magnitude that by necessity we are moving quickly. We're not moving quickly because we're trying to jam something down people's throats. We're moving quickly because we're told that if we don't move quickly, that the economy is going to keep on getting worse. We'll have another two or three or four million jobs lost this year.
I'd love to be leisurely about this. My staff is worn out working around the clock, so is David Obey's staff, so is Nancy Pelosi's staff. We're not doing this because we think this is a lark. We're doing this because people are counting on us.
So legislation of this magnitude deserves the scrutiny that it's received and all of you will get another chance to vote for this bill in the days to come. But I urge all of us not to make the perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary. Understand the scale and the scope of this plan is right.
When you start hearing arguments on the cable chatter, just understand a couple of things.
Number one, when they say well, why are we spending $800 billion? We've got this huge deficit.
First of all, I found this deficit when I showed up. Number one.
I found this national debt doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office. Number two, it is expected that we are going to lose about a trillion dollars worth of demand this year, a trillion dollars of demand next year because of the contraction of the economy. So the reason that this has to be big is to try to fill some of that loss demand and as it is, there are many who think that we should be doing even more. So we're -- we are -- we are -- we are taking prudent steps but you talk to Ted Strickland, and what's happening in Ohio. And you ask him whether they need some relief in terms of the unemployment insurance rates that are going sky high and him having to pick up all kinds of folks who are suddenly seeking food stamps who had been working all their lives. And he'll tell you that this is not something that we're just doing to grow government. We're doing this because this is what the best minds tell us needs to be done. That's point number one.
Point number two, when they start talking about -- well, we need more tax cuts. We started this package with a healthy amount of tax cuts in the mix recognizing that some tax cuts can be very beneficial particularly if they're going to middle class and working families that will spend that money.
That's not -- that's not me talking. That's the economists talking who insisted that they're most likely to spend and get that money into circulation and stimulate the economy. Now, in fact, when we announced the bill, you remember, this is only about two weeks ago, what? Two weeks ago? When we announced the framework and we were complimented by Republicans saying boy, you know, this was a balanced package. We're pleasantly surprised. And suddenly, what was a balanced package needs to be put out of balance. Don't buy those arguments.
Then there's the argument, well, this is full of pet projects. When was the last time that we saw a bill of this magnitude move out with no earmarks in it? Not one. And -- and when you start asking, well, what is it exactly that is such a problem that you're seeing? Where is all this waste in spending?
Well, you know, you want to replace the federal fleet with hybrid cars. Well, why wouldn't we want to do that? That creates jobs for people who make those cars. It saves the federal government energy. It saves the taxpayers energy.
So then you get the argument, well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill. What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point.
No seriously, that's the point. So, I mean, I get carried away. We got to leave some time for questions and answers.
Here's the point I'm making. This package is not going to be absolutely perfect and you can nit and you can pick and, you know, that's the game we all play here. We know how to play that game. What I'm saying is now we can't afford to play that game. We've got to pull together.
There are going to be some things that don't get included that each of us would like to see included. All of us are going to have to make some sacrifices. And we have to accommodate the interests of a range of people and the House is going to have to work with the Senate. But let's think big right now. Let's not think small. Let's not think narrowly.
Just as past generations of Americans have done in trying times, we can and must turn this moment of challenge into one of opportunity. The plan that you passed has at its core a simple idea, let's put Americans to work doing the work that America needs done. So this plan --
This plan will save or create over three million jobs. Almost all of them in the private sector. This plan will put people to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, our dangerously deficient dams and levees. This plan will put people to work, modernizing our health care system. That doesn't just save us billions of dollars. It saves countless lives because we'll reduce medical errors.
This plan will put people to work renovating more than 10,000 schools giving millions of children the chance to learn in 21st century classrooms and libraries and labs, creating new scientists for a new future. This plan will provide sensible tax relief for the struggling middle class and unemployment insurance and continued health care coverage for those who lost their jobs, and it will help prevent our states and local communities. It will help Governor Ritter and Governor Strickland not have to lay off firefighters and teachers and police, because when they get laid off, not only do we lose services but maybe they can't make payments on their home. Maybe they get foreclosed on and the economy goes down further.
And finally, this plan will begin to end the tyranny of oil in our time. Doubles our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind and solar and biofuels. And it does in three years, saves taxpayers billions of dollars, makes federal buildings more efficient, saves the average working family hundreds of dollars on their energy bills.
After decades of empty rhetoric, that's the down payment that we need on energy independence. Now, there's a lot about running for president that is tough especially -- I don't miss sleeping in motels and hotels. I don't miss not being with my kids as much as I'd like. But the best thing about being a candidate and all of you know this because those members of Congress who are here, you've run. You know what it's like. You get to see the country. You get to know the character of the American people.
Over the last two years, I visited almost all 50 states. I got to admit the one I missed was Alaska. We're going to get there.
(LAUGHTER) I've been in so many of your districts. I passed through towns and cities and farms and factories, and I know what you know. People are hurting. I've looked in their eyes. I've heard their stories. I've sensed their deep frustration.
And they're just hoping that we're working for them. You know, they're so strong and they're so decent, the American people. Those struggles haven't diminished that strength and that decency. We hold in our hands the capacity to do great things on their behalf. But we're going to have to do it by not thinking about ourselves. Not thinking about, you know, how's this position me? How am I looking?
We're going to have to just think about how are we delivering for them. It starts with this economic recovery plan. And soon we'll take on the big issues like addressing the foreclosure problem by passing a budget tackling our fiscal problems, fixing our financial regulation, securing our country, and we won't approach these challenges just as Democrats, because we remember the look in the eyes of our constituents.
We know even though they've been cynical that they're thinking maybe this time is going to be different. They know we've got to overcome all these problems as Americans. And that's why we have to work in a serious substantive and civil way. And we will keep working to build bipartisan support for action.
I promise you that my door is always open. My administration will consult closely with each and every one of you -- the people's representatives as we take on these pressing priorities.
Already you've made a difference. Nancy mentioned. I'm so proud of that day that we signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. To see Lilly Ledbetter on the stage representing the American people, representing all the women out there who want to their daughters to have the same opportunities as our sons and that we signed children's health insurance to provide coverage for 11 million and make a down payment on comprehensive health care reform. And it wasn't easy.
You worked hard to make it happen, which means we can work hard to make sure that we've got jobs all across America and energy independence all across America. And we will not stop until we deliver for our constituents. That's what the Democratic Party is all about. That's what this caucus is all about. That's what my presidency is all about.
Thank you, guys. I love you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
BROWN: President Obama wrapping up a speech there in Williamsburg, Virginia, at a retreat for Democrats rallying the troops trying to get everyone engaged as they have this fight on their hands to try to get his stimulus plan passed. And I want to go back to our panel and get reaction.
Gloria, what did you think of the speech?
BORGER: Well, I thought it sounded like the Barack Obama of the campaign. I think it's somebody who's finally sort of found his message again. Clearly, preaching to the choir here, the Democratic Party, but he said something that was interesting to me.
Campbell, he said, "I'm all for bipartisanship. My door is always open. I value constructive criticism." But he said, "Don't come to the table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped create this crisis."
So, it's also a turning of the page for President Obama saying, OK, now I'm in charge and I'm going to be the decider of what those tired arguments are. And, you know, I think we're seeing a different President Obama today than we saw a week ago.
BROWN: And Kevin Madden, a little tough with Republicans there. A little sarcastic about some of the criticism that Republicans have made about some of the pieces of this plan. What did you think?
MADDEN: Look, I thought it was practically borderline spiteful towards Republicans. I think he started out with the rosy rhetoric of the past where he said he want to be bipartisan and then he went right into an extremely partisan speech. If the goal tonight was to help get GOP votes, this was a very disappointing speech and it probably didn't move the ball anywhere.
The simple fact is that Barack Obama went -- President Obama went into that room tonight, and he spoke and shouted into the echo chamber of partisanship. He spoke only to those people in that room, and I think that he lost any chance that he had of getting some bipartisan goodwill built amongst Republicans on this particular bill.
BROWN: Yes. John King, do you agree with that?
KING: I agree that it was a very partisan speech. The White House calculation here, Campbell, is he went into a room, he applauded the House Democrats for their discipline.
Privately, many White House officials will tell you they don't like some of the spending House Democrats put in this bill but a public embrace from President Obama. The Republicans have succeeded in making this a fight against Democrats in Congress who the Republicans say are trying to spend too much.
What Barack Obama did tonight is said to Republicans, all Republicans, this is an argument with me and I think I have the support of the American people. He personalized the debate. He put his own credibility and his capital at risk, and he made clear he's willing to take the Republicans on to get this done.
It's a partisan stroke by the president, but the White House made the calculation to concede in public now would be a sign of weakness, and this president doesn't think he's weak at the moment. BROWN: And Errol, does that mean ultimately what we're going to end up with is the bill will pass but it's not going to pass with any Republican support?
ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well, that's right. And I think we could see that it was heading in that direction any way. Some of the rhetoric coming from the other side of the aisle made clear that's where it was going to end up.
I think he also did a valuable service for everybody by giving an Economics 101 lesson that stimulus is not about nitpicking in deciding what's good spending and what's bad spending. The point is to spend. And unless it's horribly wasteful, building a new building for the public health service or for the Centers for Disease Control, or greening federal buildings makes a lot of sense.
BROWN: We're going to end it there, but many thanks to our panel tonight for sticking around and listening to the whole speech with us.
Gloria Borger, Kevin Madden, John King, Errol Louis, thanks, guys.
We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with much more right after this. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Then you get the argument, well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill. What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: That was President Obama speaking to the annual retreat of the House Democratic Caucus in Williamsburg, Virginia. We just heard the president calling for support for his economic stimulus plan.
We want to bring back our panel once again and hear what they have to say about this. Again, we've got Gloria Borger, Kevin Madden, John King and Errol Louis.
You just heard the president there, guys, being a little sarcastic in terms of --
MADDEN: Just a little.
BROWN: Just a little in terms of his message for Republicans. As everyone seemed to agree there, pretty partisan speech on his part.
John, though, you mentioned that there is Republican support for what he wants to do outside of Washington. Governor Schwarzenegger out in California. Governor Crist down in Florida. These are, you know, at the state level they need the money. They want the money. How can the president or should he be using them to rally support and take this debate out of Washington?
KING: Well, certainly he likes what many governors are saying. Republican governors are saying they do need the money. Now, Republican governors, a handful put out a statement tonight saying they need the money and want the money but they don't like some things in this program. But there are Republican governors who say we need it to help with state budgets. There are Republican mayors including the city I'm in tonight who say we need that money desperately.
Campbell, what you saw tonight was what Ronald Reagan did at his best. You go out in public and you challenge the other party. You say my ideas are better than yours. In fact, he even said the other guys were a little crazy. They're off the track. They're trying to do things we know are wrong and then privately you compromise. That's what a president does when he has the strength and the political capital to make a message.
They're still going to have to make a few more compromise, but Barack Obama was saying tonight, I just won. The American people are behind me, and I'm not going to back away from this fight. He personalized the debate. It's going to be very interesting to watch this play out. He's essentially calling the Republicans' bluff saying try to stop me.
BROWN: And Gloria, he is doing that one-on-one that John just talked about.
BROWN: That Republican Senator Susan Collins talked about him sitting down with her and spending something like 30 minutes trying to make his case directly to her one-on-one, which is pretty extraordinary granted she's a moderate, but still, somebody he could likely win over. He is doing something that's pretty unusual.
BORGER: Right. She is a very important one, Campbell, because if she and her colleagues, Senator Olympia Snowe go along with him, then he may have a filibuster-proof majority. So he really needs Susan Collins.
But what he's doing is, as John says, what Ronald Reagan did. He's calling people into the Oval Office. He's meeting with them. The only difference is that Ronald Reagan used to give them cufflinks when they went to the Oval Office, but he's also playing a very public game.
And the reason we got to see this speech tonight, the reason it wasn't closed is that it wasn't just for the House Democrats. It was for the American public to get the American public, as he said, at the end all fired up and ready to go, as he used to say during the campaign.
BROWN: Kevin, could Republicans, as partisan as you thought it was, could they be backing themselves into a corner a little bit here because you've got still this hugely popular president who's saying look, it's me against you? Could this be a problem ultimately politically?
MADDEN: Look, Campbell, Republicans were watching tonight. They were part of that national audience that saw this speech. I'm sure they did not like the partisanship at a time where they are trying to work and perfect this bill.
Let's remember about Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan never lost control of his tone. I think that Barack Obama lost control of his tone tonight and injected a certain level of partisanship into this that's not going to be helpful.
And let's not forget this, Campbell. There are 55 Democrats that also wrote a letter to President Obama today complaining about guess what? The level of wasteful spending that was in this bill. So it's not just Republicans. There's bipartisan opposition to some of the wasteful spending in this bill, and that's where Republicans are under.
BROWN: All right. Errol, I'm going to give you the last word.
LOUIS: Yes. I think the waste question is going to be answered very, very swiftly. Everything on this bill I predict will be over and done with in the next 48 hours. The basic outlines of a deal will have to be in place before the weekend is over.
BROWN: We will see what happens tomorrow. Lots to shake out here and keep track of.
Errol Louis, again, appreciate it. John King, Gloria Borger and Kevin Madden, thanks to all of you. Thanks for your time tonight.
And that does it for us tonight. We will see you right back here tomorrow.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.