Obama Makes Stimulus Pitch with CEOs
By Michael D. Shear
Hours before the House of Representatives is expected to vote on an $825 billion stimulus package, President Obama gathered titans of American industry for an East Room ceremony aimed at pressuring lawmakers for its passage.
He also announced the creation of a new Web site, recovery.gov, which will document how the money from the stimulus bill is spent.
After meeting privately for about an hour with the CEOs of a dozen of the nation's largest companies, the president told a group of about 100 business leaders that Congress must not delay its efforts to restart the economy and put people back to work.
"The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat, they cannot afford inaction or delay," Obama said. "The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that theirs will be the next job cut -- they need help now. They are looking to Washington for action, bold and swift."
The event, held under the chandeliers in one of the White House's glitziest rooms, was meant to rally support behind the bill, which has been under fire for days by Republicans in the Congress, who say the bill has too few tax cuts, is too large and is filled with unnecessary spending.
David M. Cote, the chairman and CEO of Honeywell, countered by saying that companies are looking for swift action, and he urged lawmakers to not be timid in their efforts to rescue the economy.
Calling the situation "dire," Cote said that "we're very supportive of the reinvestment act. Our message would be: We have to do this fast."
Obama called the meeting with the CEOs "sobering" and said he discussed with the executives the extent of the job losses that have accumulated just in recent days, as large companies announced tens of thousands in layoffs.
The president directly challenged GOP critics who say the proposed legislation would not inject money into the economy for many years.
"Most of the money we're investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job-creation, generating or saving three to four million new jobs," he said.
The website Obama announced has the following statement: "Check back after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to see how and where your dollars are spent. An oversight board will routinely update this site as part of an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency and unnecessary spending in our government."
"I firmly believe with Justice Brandeis that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back that trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American
people sent us here to make," Obama said.
According to the White House, the CEOs at the meeting included:
Steve Appleton, Chairman, President and CEO, Micron Technology
David Barger, CEO, Jet Blue
Greg Brown, President and Co-CEO, Motorola, Inc.
John Bryson, President and CEO, Edison International
David M. Cote, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell
Debra Lee, President and CEO, BET Holdings, Inc.
Anne Mulcahy, Chairman and CEO, Xerox
Sam Palmisano, Chairman, CEO and President, IBM
Antonio Perez, Chairman and CEO, Eastman Kodak Company
Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google
Michael Splinter, Applied Materials
Wendell Weeks, Chairman and CEO, Corning
Ron Williams, CEO, Aetna
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