Obama Leaves D.C. to Sign Stimulus Bill
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
DENVER, Feb. 17 -- Warning that its passage into law "does not mark the end of our economic troubles," President Obama on Tuesday signed the $787 billion stimulus package, a measure he called the most sweeping financial legislation enacted in the nation's history.
Obama used the occasion to step away from Washington, choosing not to sign the landmark bill in a White House ceremony surrounded by proud congressional supporters. Instead, he ventured 1,700 miles away from the capital and its partisan wrangling to the sunny atrium of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where he called the legislation crucial to injecting new life into the nation's moribund economy.
As 250 business leaders, Vice President Biden and a few members of Congress looked on, Obama sat at a wooden desk and signed the nearly 1,100-page bill, which was flown here with him aboard Air Force One.
"We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time," Obama said, calling the legislation "the beginning of the end" of what needed to be done to fix the economy.
The ceremony did little to encourage Wall Street's spirits Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 3.8 percent and flirted with its lowest close in 5 1/2 years.
Even before the signing, administration officials refused to rule out the idea that Obama might return to Congress to seek another infusion of cash. As Obama flew here, press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One that "the president is going to do what's necessary to grow this economy. But there are no particular plans at this point for a second stimulus package."
Obama said the bill will fund record investments in education, new energy research and new infrastructure that will lay the foundation for the nation's economic future. The bill includes a $400 tax break for most individual taxpayers and $800 for married couples, and checks would go even to those who do not earn enough to pay income taxes.
At the same time, the two-year bill expands the social safety net, including food stamp and child nutrition programs. There are also increased unemployment benefits and health-care access for those thrown out of work.
"We have done more in 30 days to advance the cause of health-care reform than this country has done in an entire decade," Obama said, prompting a standing ovation.
The stimulus plan is part of a three-pronged effort by the administration to arrest the nation's severe economic downturn. Last week, the administration outlined a plan to repair the nation's teetering financial system. And on Wednesday in Phoenix, one of the cities hit hardest by the nation's housing downturn, Obama is scheduled to announce plans to stem the rise in foreclosures.
Before Obama signed the bill, he and Biden were given a tour of the solar panels atop the Denver museum by Blake Jones, chief executive of Namaste Solar, a Boulder-based firm that has installed more than 500 solar systems in Colorado since 2006. In that time, the company has grown from three to 55 employees, but the economic downturn raised the prospect of layoffs. With the stimulus plan in place, Jones said, he expects to add more than 20 jobs in the next two years.
Similar enthusiasm was evident among other businesspeople who came to witness the signing.