As he did with the Mayors on Friday, President Obama in the State Dining Room just told the nation’s governors that he would not hesitate to call them out if they push wasteful programs from their stimulus dollars.
After heralding the appointment of Inspector General General Earl Devaney to chair the accountability and transparency board supervising the spending of the stimulus package, the president said, "Let me be clear: We cannot tolerate business as usual. Not in Washington, and not in our state capitals."
"The American people are watching," the President said. "I want everyone here to be on notice: if a state government (proposes wasteful spending)…I will call them out on it."
Mr. Obama also just bashed "cable chatter" making a big deal out of what he deemed small parts of the stimulus package.
"I just want to make sure that we’re having an honest debate," the president said. "I just want us to not lose perspective of the fact that most of the things that have been the topic of argument over the last several days amount to a fraction of the overall stimulus package. This sometimes gets lost in the cable chatter."
He pushed back on the criticism from some GOP governors — Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, for instance — about their emphasis on changes in unemployment insurance policy that states will be forced to make if they accept some of the unemployment insurance dollars in the stimulus.
"I think there are some very legitimate concerns on the part of some about the sustainability of expanding unemployment insurance," President Obama said. "What hasn’t been noted is is that that is $7 billion of a $787 billion program. And it’s not even the majority of the expansion of unemployment insurance. So it is possible for those who are concerned about sustaining a change that increases eligibility for part-time workers to still see the benefit of $30 billion-plus that is going — even if you don’t make the change."
"I just want to make sure that we’re having an honest debate and presenting to the American people a fulsome accounting of what is going on in this program," the president said.
Said Obama, "I think there are some legitimate concerns that can be raised on a whole host of these issues. And you’re responsible at the state level and, you know, if the federal government gives you something now and then two years later it’s gone and people are looking to you and…starting to blame you, I don’t want to put you in that position.
"And so you need to think about how this money is going to be spent wisely. What I don’t want us to do, though, is to just get caught up in the same old stuff that inhibits us from acting effectively and in concert," he said.
"There’s going to be ample time for campaigns down the road," he said, a not-so-veiled reference to those Guvs, especially Jindal, who are said to be contemplating 2012 presidential campaigns. "Right now, we’ve got to make sure that we’re standing up for the American people and putting them back to the work."
– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller