CQ Transcripts Wire
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 4:00 PM
COLORADO GOV. BILL RITTER (D): Thank you. Good afternoon. I'm Bill Ritter, governor of the great state of Colorado.
It is my distinct honor and privilege to welcome the president and the vice president of the United States to Denver, Colorado, for this historic bill signing.
Two months ago, I joined governors from all across America at a meeting in Philadelphia with then President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden.
They wanted to hear from the nation's governors about how the economy was hurting people in our states, how families were struggling, how children were being impacted.
For governors, this was encouraging, new leaders solving problems by building new partnerships and coming up with new solutions. They asked, they listened, and they included our ideas for short-term job creation and long-term economic growth in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Mr. President, thank you.
Thank you for the millions of jobs that will be created by investing in transportation, energy and other infrastructure projects.
Thank you for investing in vital safety net services like health care and unemployment insurance.
Thank you for investing in education, research and innovation.
RITTER: And thank you for believing in the promise of Colorado to help lead our nation forward.
There is no better place for this signing ceremony than right here in Colorado, the home of the new energy economy.
Two years ago, Colorado started building a new energy economy, creating new jobs, building new wind farms in wheat fields, and making our universities research leaders in renewable and alternative energy.
The new energy economy is very much about creating a new energy future. But it's also about creating new economic opportunities. It's about creating sustainable jobs so parents can keep food on the table, so they can send their kids of college, so they can afford health care.
It's about creating a new economic future for all Americans.
Companies like Namaste Solar are at the heart of the new energy economy. When Colorado voters became the first in the country to pass a renewable energy standard in 2004, Namaste did not exist. Today, Namaste has 55 employees. They built the solar array on top of this museum. They installed solar at the governor's residence.
There are hundreds of new energy economy businesses like Namaste employing thousands of people all across Colorado.
RITTER: Mr. President, your recover package will drive the new energy economy forward not just in this state, but all across America, creating jobs, reducing the cost of energy for families, and moving our nation closer to energy independence.
This is how we rebuild America. This is how President Obama's recovery package will get the economy moving again. This is the promise of a better tomorrow.
And it is now my privilege to introduce a great friend to the state of Colorado, someone I've long admired for his commitment and his dedication to public service, the vice president of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Governor, thank you.
Governor, thank you very much. It's a genuine honor. It's an honor to be here with the president.
And my name is Joe Biden. I used to work for -- I used to work for Ken Salazar...
... in the United States Senate. And it's good to see you here, Ken.
I guess you -- you're going to hitch a ride home with me, right?
He rode out on the big plane. He's going back on the little one.
But I -- and I also want to acknowledge Senator Michael Bennet, who I had an opportunity to meet.
BIDEN: And Congresswoman DeGette is here as well.
There she is.
And Mayor Hickenlooper, I -- I want you to know how much we appreciate the hospitality.
And also, I believe Congressman Perlmutter was at the -- there you are, Congressman. I wasn't sure you were...
... he greeted us when we got off the plan. And I...
And Mr. President, it's a slight diversion, but I think we got to be nice to him. The chairman of the Finance Committee, Max Baucus is here.
So we got to make sure -- Max, just remember, when we call -- I call, just say, "Yes, Joe." OK?
All kidding aside, thanks for your great help in this, Max.
You know, you don't need to be an economist to know that jobs are the engine of our economy. And without jobs, people can't earn, and when people can't earn, they can't spend. And if they don't spend, it means more jobs get lost. It's a vicious cycle. And that's the vicious cycle we're in today.
And it's one of the reasons that this bill is so desperately needed. We have to reverse that cycle.
But everyone knows that jobs are more than just about a job. They're about dignity; they're about respect. They're about being able to get up in the morning and look your child in the eye and say, "Everything's going to be OK. Everything's going to be OK."
Last year -- last year our economy lost 3 million jobs; 600,000 more just this last month. There are an awful lot of mothers and fathers who had to work up those stairs to the bedroom of their children and tell them that "I'm out of work, honey. We may not be able to stay here. You may not be able to stay in school." It's a tough, tough conversation, and many -- too many times it's already occurred in this country.
We're here today -- we're here today to start to turn that around.
BIDEN: We're not just -- we're not just going to help the economy recover. We're going to start building the economy for the future.
I'm particularly pleased that this bill includes investments in areas I've worked my whole political career. Thanks to the Recovery Act, thousands of additional police officers will go on the streets of America, and hundreds and hundreds of fire stations will be built, making the people of Denver and every other city in America safer.
Thanks to this act, we're going to see an unprecedented investment in improving America's rail system, coast to coast.
In Denver, right here -- right here in Denver, your light rail will be affected all the way to the northeast corridor, where I come from.
We should have the best transportation system in the world -- and we don't.
But ladies and gentlemen, it's not only that this will help create jobs in the rail -- in the rail sector. It's also good for the environment. So there's a double bang for the buck on a number of the investments we're making in this legislation.
Starting today, our administration will be working day and night to provide more aid for the unemployed, create immediate jobs building our roads and our bridges, make long-term investments in a smarter energy grid, and so much more.
And as we turn the economy around, we've got to make sure of one more thing. Last time when economic recovery occurred after a deep recession, the middle class got left behind. The middle class got left behind.
And that's why the president set up a -- a White House council on the -- task force on the middle class, which he's asked me to chair.
So as we go through this process, we're also going to make sure that America's, as we recover, that American middle class is not left behind.
But before we start on -- on -- on the way, there is much more to be done in the weeks to come.
BIDEN: I want to say something about what got us to this point. I remember having the meetings of the transition team with President- elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden in Chicago, and meeting in those offices, knowing we were about to inherit a very, very bad economic situation.
And we started to put together -- the president's leadership -- the blueprint for our recovery. Faced with a swirl of options and uncertainties, then-President-elect Obama was as clear and as firm then as he is today about what is needed. He said, and I quote, "We have to be bold. We have to act fast. And we have to think of the future that we wish to build."
Well, I believe that's what the president delivered. He never lost sight of those goals that he set back in November and December of last year.
Over the weeks that followed, I watched him reach out, asking senators and congressmen of both parties to put the good of the nation above the disagreement over one particular part of this significant package. The president showed a willingness to compromise on specifics, but he never compromised on the principles he set out in that room in Chicago back in November.
And so, folks, he showed a willingness to work with others to get things done, but he never bent in his determination to put us on a -- on a road to recovery and reinvestment.
So today, less than a month -- think of this -- less than a month into his presidency, the president is about to sign into law what is, I believe, a landmark achievement.
Because of what he did, America can take a first, very strong step leading us out of this very difficult road to recovery we find ourselves on.
So on behalf of our country and its people, Mr. President, let me presume to say thank you. We owe you a great deal.
To introduce -- to introduce the president, it's my pleasure to introduce Blake Jones, president of, now, Namaste.
BIDEN: I told him, if I didn't say it right, he could call me Bidden.
But Namaste Solar. In four years, this company has grown from three people to 60 owner-employees, and has become one of the leading installers of -- of photoelectric (ph) panels here in the state of Colorado. And I expect they have ambitions to go beyond that, and I hope they succeed.
In fact, Bill Ritter isn't just a governor. He's a customer.
Namaste installed, as he mentioned, the solar panels on the governor's mansion. And despite Namaste's success, without the recovery and reinvestment bill that the president's about to sign, I think the president would tell you he was a little worried he might have to take other action, in spite of all the progress that had been made, that may have included layoffs.
But with this bill -- with this bill, he's going to be looking to hire -- not fire, hire. And that's the difference between -- that this investment is going to make, and why we're so happy to be here today.
So please join me in welcoming Blake Jones.
NAMASTE SOLAR CEO BLAKE JONES: Thank you, Vice President Bidden.
Again, my name is Blake Jones. And I'm the president and CEO of Namaste Solar. We're a small business, based here in Colorado. And we design and install solar electric systems for homes, businesses, nonprofits and government entities.
We also specialize in designing systems for museums that have good rooftops for presidential tours.
So we can't get to Arizona, or whatever's next, fast enough. (LAUGHTER)
But maybe next time, we'll get him to come back.
As the governor and the vice president said, our company has grown very quickly. We've grown from three to 55 employees in just the past three years.
And in this fast growth, we're not alone. This fast growth is representative of what thousands of other small businesses throughout the country have experienced in the solar industry and in other green industries.
But despite this past success, we're very concerned about our future. And over the past few months, our company has been preparing for a drastic downturn in our business this year.
It started with a hiring freeze. Then we slashed budgets. Then we cut work for our subcontractors. Then we slashed the budgets again. And then we were faced with difficult, challenging conversations about laying people off.
But now, because of the stimulus bill that the president will sign today, our pessimistic outlook has been injected with new hope and optimism.
And this weekend, I called CEOs of other solar companies to compare notes about what we saw in the stimulus bill.
JONES: And the overwhelming consensus is that this stimulus bill will immediately benefit companies like ours.
Now, demand for solar is almost overwhelming. It's been growing very rapidly; it continues to grow. But despite this, over the past six months, we've had dozens of projects that have been on hold, almost entirely due to the uncertainty and instability in capital markets.
Among many other things in the stimulus bill, there are provisions that will directly address this; that will open up the markets again and harness the power of the private sector to finance these projects, these wrench-ready projects so that they cant move forward right away.
We're -- this in turn will allow us to not only maintain jobs that otherwise would have been lost this year, but it will also allow us to begin hiring again. And this is for a company that was hiring an employee a month. The hiring freeze has been strange for us, but we will begin hiring again. And we now have plans to increase our workforce by 20 percent this year and 40 percent through 2010.
Now, we're just one small business creating one to two dozen jobs. But the point I want to stress is that there are thousands of small businesses just like ours that will be doing the same thing.
Our trade association, the Solar Energy Industries Association, estimates that as a direct result of this stimulus bill, U.S. solar companies will create 69,000 good-paying jobs this year and almost double that number over the next two years.
JONES: And we're hoping that the thousands of carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers, sales people, marketing people and executives that have been laid off by the building industries, that they'll consider joining us in the solar industry to help us install millions of solar panels on homes and businesses throughout the United States.
Now, it's -- it's important that we talk about the creation of all types of jobs. But in this day and age it's particularly important that we're talking about the creation of green jobs, because green industries are going to be some of the most important and fastest-growing industries in the 21st century.
And we're at a crossroads. We cannot afford to be left behind. We must seize this opportunity to make sure that United States takes a leadership position in this movement.
And, furthermore, there is a unique claim that we can make about green jobs, and that's that green jobs aren't just good for those of us that have them, green jobs are good for everyone. There are widespread benefits, such that with every green job we create, our nation takes one step closer toward achieving energy independence, strengthening national security, bolstering the economy, protecting the environment and improving public health, all the same time.
We're very fortunate to have leadership that understands this, particularly leaders like Governor Ritter, Vice President Biden, and the next speaker.
And without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.
Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you, everybody.
Please, have a seat.
You guys can sit down, too.
Let me begin by saying thank you to a few people -- first of all your outstanding governor, Bill Ritter. Please give Bill a big round of applause.
Lieutenant Governor Barbara O'Brien.
Secretary of State Bernie Buescher.
Your outstanding mayor, John Hickenlooper.
Your new senator, Michael Bennet.
Your old senator, now my secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar.
Mark Udall's not here, but give him a round of applause anyway.
One of the outstanding leaders who helped shepherd this process through in record time, please give Max Baucus of Montana a big round of applause.
Thank you, Max.
To Secretary Federico Pena, one of my national co-chairs, I would not be here if it were not for Federico.
To Representative Diana DeGette, who is -- we are in her district, so, thank you so much.
Representative -- Representative Betsy Markey.
Representative Jared Polis.
Representative Ed Perlmutter.
To all the other elected officials and outstanding leaders who are here and to the whole Namaste family and Mr. Jones for outstanding work, congratulations.
OBAMA: Give them a big round of applause.
And to the best vice president that we've had in a long time.
It is great to be back in Denver.
I was -- I was here last summer -- we had a good time...
... to accept the nomination of my party and to make a promise to people of all parties that I would do all that I could to give every American the chance to make of their lives what they will; to see their children climb higher than they did.
And I'm back today to say that we have begun the difficult work of keeping that promise. We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time, and that's why we're here today.
Now, I don't want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems, nor does it constitute all of what we're going to have to do to turn our economy around.
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 wake of lay-offs; the beginning of what we need to do to provide relief for families worried that they won't be able to pay next month's bills; the beginnings of the first steps to set our economy on a firmer foundation, paving the way to long-term growth and prosperity.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I will sign today, a plan that meets the principles I laid out in January, is the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history. It's the product of broad consultation and the recipient of broad support from business leaders, unions, public interest groups, from the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as the AFL-CIO; from Democrats and Republicans, mayors as well as governors.
OBAMA: It's a rare thing in Washington for people with such diverse and different viewpoints to come together and support the same bill. And on behalf of our nation, I want to thank all of them for it, including your two outstanding senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, as well as all the members of your congressional delegation. They did an outstanding job, and they deserve a big round of applause.
I also want to thank Joe Biden for working behind the scenes from the very start to make this Recovery Act possible. I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid for acting so quickly and for proving that Congress could step up to this challenge.
I have special thanks to Max Baucus, who's the chairman of the Finance Committee. Without Max, none of this would have happened. He had to work overtime and push his committee to work overtime.
And I want to thank all the committee chairs and members of Congress for coming up with a plan that is both bold and balanced enough to meet the demands of this moment. The American people were looking to them for leadership, and that's what they provided.
And what makes this recovery plan so important is not just that it will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, including 60,000-plus here in Colorado. It's that we're putting Americans to work doing the work that America needs done, in critical areas...
... in critical areas that have been neglected for too long; work that will bring real and lasting change for generations to come.
Because we know we can't build our economic future on the transportation and information networks of the past, we are remaking the American landscape with the largest new investment in our nation's infrastructure since Eisenhower built an interstate highway system in the 1950s.
Because of this investment, nearly 400,000 men and women will go to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, repairing our faulty dams and levees, bringing critical broadband connections to businesses and homes in nearly every community in America, upgrading mass transit, building high-speed rail lines that will improve travel and commerce throughout our nation.
Because we know America can't out-compete the world tomorrow if our children are being out-educated today, we're making the largest investment in education in our nation's history.
It's -- it's an investment that will create jobs building 21st century classrooms and libraries and labs for millions of children across America. It'll provide funds to train a new generation of math and science teachers while giving aid to states and school districts to stop teachers from being laid off and education programs from being cut.
OBAMA: In a place like New York City, 14,000 teachers who were set to be let go may now be able to continue pursuing their critical mission.
It's an investment that will create a new $2,500 annual tax credit to put the dream of a college degree within reach for middle- class families, and make college affordable for 7 million students...
... helping more of our sons and daughters aim higher, reach further, fulfill their God-given potential.
Because we know that spiraling health care costs are crushing families and businesses alike, we're taking the most meaningful steps, in years, toward modernizing our health care system.
It's an investment that will take the long overdue step of computerizing America's medical records to reduce the duplication and waste that costs billions of health care dollars and medical errors that cost thousands of lives each year.
Further, thanks to the actions we've taken, 7 million Americans who lost their health care along the way will continue to get the coverage they need, and roughly 20 million more Americans can breathe a little easier knowing that their health care won't be cut due to a state budget shortfall.
And a historic commitment to wellness initiatives will keep millions of Americans from setting foot in the doctor's office in the first place.
Because these are preventable diseases, and we're going to invest in prevention.
So taken together with the enactment earlier this month of a long-delayed law to extend health care to millions more children of working families...
... we have done more in 30 days to advance the cause of health care reform than this country has done in an entire decade. And that's something we should be proud of.
Because we know we can't power America's future on energy that's controlled by foreign dictators, we are taking big steps down the road to energy independence, laying the groundwork for new green energy economies that can create countless well-paying jobs.
It's an investment that will double the amount of renewable energy produced over the next three years -- think about that -- double the amount of renewable energy in three years...
... provide tax credits and loan guarantees to companies like Namaste, a company that will be expanding instead of laying people off as a result of the plan that I'm about to sign.
OBAMA: And in the process, we will transform the way we use energy.
Today, the electricity we use is carried along a grid of lines and wires that date back to Thomas Edison, a grid that can't support the demands of this economy.
This means we're using 19th century and 20th century technologies to battle 21st century problems, like climate change and energy security.
It also means that places like North Dakota can -- that can produce a lot of wind energy can't deliver it to communities that want it, leading to a gap between how much clean energy we are using and how much we could be using.
The investment we're making today will create a newer, smarter electric grid that'll allow for broader use of alternative energy. We will build on the work that's being done in places like Boulder, a community that's on its -- that's on pace to be the world's first smart grid city.
This investment will place smart meters in homes to make our energy bills lower, make outages less likely, and make it easier to use clean energy. It's an investment that will save taxpayers over $1 billion by slashing energy costs in our federal buildings by 25 percent, save working families hundreds of dollars a year on their energy bills by weatherizing over 1 million homes.
And it's an investment that takes the important first step toward a national transmission superhighway that will connect our cities to the windy plains of the Dakotas and the sunny deserts of the Southwest.
Now, even beyond energy, from the National Institutes of Health to the National Science Foundation, this recovery act represents the biggest increase in basic research funding in the long history of America's noble endeavor to better understand our world.
And just as President Kennedy sparked an explosion of innovation when he set America's sights on the moon, I hope this investment will ignite our imagination once more, spurring new discoveries and breakthroughs in science, in medicine, in energy, to make our economy stronger and our nation more secure and our planet safer for our children.
OBAMA: Now, while this package is composed mostly of critical investments, it also includes aid to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of firefighters or police recruits.
Recruits -- recruits like the ones in Columbus, Ohio, who were told that instead of being sworn in as officers, they were about to be let go.
It includes help for those hardest hit by our economic crisis, like the nearly...
OBAMA: ... we've seen in recent years, the vast majority of these tax benefits will go not to the wealthiest Americans, but to the middle class, with those workers who make the least benefiting the most.
And it's a plan that rewards responsibility, lifting 2 million Americans from poverty by ensuring that anyone who works hard does not have to raise a child below the poverty line.
So, as a whole, this plan will help poor and working Americans pull themselves into the middle class in a way we haven't seen in nearly 50 years.
What I'm signing then is a balanced plan with a mix of tax cuts and investments. It's a plan that's been put together without earmarks or the usual pork-barrel spending. It's a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability.
With a recovery package of this size comes a responsibility to assure every taxpayer that we are being careful with the money they worked so hard to earn.
OBAMA: And that's why I'm assigning a team of managers to ensure that the precious dollars we've invested are being spent wisely and well.
Governor Ritter, Mayor Hickenlooper, we're going to hold governors and local officials who receive the money to the same high standard.
And we expect you, the American people, to hold us accountable for the results. And that's why we created Recovery.gov, a Web site so that every American can go online and see how this money is being spent and what kind of jobs is being created, where those jobs are being created. We want transparency and accountability throughout this process.
Now, as important as the step we take today is, this legislation represents only the first part of the broad strategy we need to address our economic crisis.
In the coming days and weeks, I'll be launching other aspects of the plan. We will need to stabilize, repair and reform our banking system and get credit flowing again to families and businesses. We will need to end the culture where we ignore problems until they become full-blown crises, instead of recognizing that the only way to build a thriving economy is to set and enforce firm rules of the road.
We must stem the spread of foreclosures and falling home values for all Americans and do everything we can to help responsible homeowners stay in their homes, something I'll talk about more tomorrow.
And we will need to do everything in the short term to get our economy moving again, while at the same time recognizing that we have inherited a trillion-dollar deficit, and we need to begin restoring fiscal discipline and taming our exploding deficits over the long term.
None of this will be easy. The road to recovery will not be straight. We will make progress, and there may be some slippage along the way. It will demand courage and discipline. It will demand a new sense of responsibility that's been missing from Wall Street all the way to Washington.
There will be hazards and reverses. But I have every confidence that if we are willing to continue doing the critical work that must be done, by each of us, by all of us, then we will leave this struggling economy behind us and come out on the other side more prosperous as a people.
OBAMA: For our American story is not, and never has been, about things coming easy. It's about rising to the moment when the moment is hard, and converting crisis into opportunity, and seeing to it that we emerge from whatever trials we face stronger than we were before.
It's about rejecting the notion that our fate is somehow written for us and instead laying claim to a destiny of our own making.
That's what earlier generations of Americans have done. That's what we owe our children. That's what we are doing here today.
Thank you, Colorado. Let's get to work. Thank you.
OBAMA: I've got to use 10 pens.