Wednesday, May 6, 2009

OPENING REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT AT THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY IMPLEMENTATION CABINET MEETING

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thanks, folks. Look, thanks for coming over again. I know this is a long trek. A joke when I was in the Senate was the longest walk in Washington is from the Senate side to the House side. But I think maybe the longest walk for you all is from your Cabinet offices to meet with me every week. But thank you.

Look, in a little more than a hundred days I think we've accomplished -- you've accomplished a great deal. We’re helping Americans get through a pretty tough time, and it's affecting the lives of individuals we're actually putting to work with what we're doing here. We are creating jobs, God willing, jobs that are going to be able to be sustained long after this recovery occurs. And we're laying the foundation for what I think is a stronger and a brighter economic future for us, not based on any bubbles.

And a lot of times at these meetings, we go through and we talk about the specific work each one of your departments are doing. But one of the things that we have not talked enough about is the spontaneity with which you all are cooperating with one another. And there's a new synergy here. I mean, I've not seen this in previous times, maybe because -- I mean, in previous administrations.

And so the way we coordinate among various departments I think is going to really bear some real fruit. And I think we're coming together. And we're having an extra impact on the expenditure of this money, getting more than our money's worth for it.

And today we have a perfect example of just that. Steve Chu -- well, Secretary Chu and Secretary Donovan signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to coordinate energy retrofit and weatherization programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. That's not required, but they both got together and decided to get a bigger bang for the bucks we have and do it more efficiently and with more lasting impact.

And what we're trying to do here in this process -- and I really appreciate what you all are doing -- is not only get this money out the door, but shed the red tape without shedding accountability. Too often a lot of the regulations we've had and the red tape that exists stood in the way of the people we are elected to serve. And so I commit to the press that's here the work that's actually been done. And particularly, I commend Secretary Donovan and Chu. And I also want to thank Secretary Vilsack, who's not here, for his efforts to include the needs of tens of thousands of rural Americans.

The partnership proposal announced today between their agencies, that is Energy and Housing, is going to help push $5 billion for weatherization assistance programs out the door and into American homes, where obviously it's needed. And through this and other efficiency programs, we're going to go a long way to reaching our goal, and doing it relatively quickly, of weatherizing a million homes out there. That's a big, gigantic energy savings, but it also is a significant cost savings for those folks who live in those homes.

And in the process we're not only bringing down these costs, but we're reinvesting in a critical -- affordable housing for low-income and elderly people, but we're also, God willing, leaving a lot of men and women, after this is over, with jobs that are sustainable, jobs that are a foundation for a new economy, jobs that they're going to be able to keep for their -- for productive work.

And this is just the beginning of this strong partnership between the two departments, which are going to be working together continuously to make this new green economy a reality.

But also as we -- now that HHS is up and running and we're moving, there's going to be a piece of your weatherization program that hopefully we'll coordinate and we're going to be able to consolidate this in a way that we get the biggest bang for the buck.

But I know this is just the first step. I know you've been meeting with me so long you probably think it's a heck of a lot longer than a hundred days. But we haven't even reached a hundred days yet for the Recovery Act, but we're on the cusp of doing that. And I think this is an important step you guys are taking today, and indicative of a government committed and a Cabinet working together to actually make this Recovery Act work. And with each step like this, we get one step closer to getting us out of this crisis; one step closer to getting America back on a firm footing, and a prosperous one.

But again, we talked about this a lot here. We don't want to just -- the most important job is to create jobs and get us out of this recession. But that's not the only objective we have. When this is over, the kind of work you guys are announcing today, and what's been done already by many of you, hopefully we have a new process in place as how to spend and expend federal dollars efficiently and transparently to states and localities. And so hopefully this is going to have a bigger bang than just merely a significant commitment we're making in terms of dollars to create jobs and get us moving.

So, thanks, and let's get down to work about what else we got to do. And I thank you all for taking time to come in. I appreciate it.
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