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Cabinet members talk up stimulus

35-stop tour aims to counter GOP claims of failure

By Philip Elliott
Associated Press / February 17, 2010

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WASHINGTON - President Obama, defending his economic stimulus plan on its first anniversary, is dispatching members of his Cabinet across the country to try to calm an anxious public as Democrats head into potentially devastating midterm elections.

A weeklong push to highlight the stimulus program’s first year began with Vice President Joe Biden’s trip yesterday to hard-hit Saginaw, Mich., to tour a small business, a jobs training program, and a solar factory that all received Recovery Act dollars.

“It’s going to take us a while to get us out of this ditch, but it’s working. It’s working,’’ Biden said at the jobs training program at Delta College.

“I absolutely refuse to accept the notion that the United States of America is not going to lead the world economically throughout the 21st century.’’

The Michigan governor’s office says $10.6 billion in Recovery Act funding has been invested in the state.

The vice president, who has led efforts to implement the stimulus plan, is expected to again push Congress to pass a jobs bill to help some of the 8.4 million people who have lost their jobs since the recession began.

Obama’s fellow Democrats planned to promote programs putting people back to work under the $787 billion spending bill. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was touring a medical center in Atlanta, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was promoting stimulus projects in Virginia and Texas.

In all, senior administration officials are scheduled to visit 35 communities before Friday to counter Republican claims that the massive deficit-spending program has failed.

Obama plans to surround himself at the White House today with people who have jobs because of the stimulus plan, then travel to Colorado and Nevada.

Obama’s political team believes bricks-and-mortar projects across the country could help Democrats stave off emboldened Republicans and their attempts to reclaim majorities in Congress.

Although voters have soured on the stimulus spending, individual components have fans across party lines.

The tax cuts Democrats included in their bill have the backing of 70 percent of the public, according to a CNN poll last month.

Another 80 percent support the infrastructure investments, such as the water projects that the Environmental Protection Agency’s chief, Lisa Jackson, plans to highlight in Columbus, Ohio, tomorrow.

Even so, 56 percent of those surveyed opposed the broad plan, according to the CNN poll.

Biden is expected to give Obama a report today assessing the effects of the stimulus spending.

Republicans say the program has failed.