Opening Remarks by the Vice President at the White House Recovery and Reinvestment Act Implementation Conference
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you. (Applause.) You all remember that old joke of state officials
— hey, Matt, how are you? — all know that old joke, “I’m from the federal government, I’m here to help.” (Laughter.)
Ladies and gentlemen, we have an awesome responsibility here. This has never been done before. We have never attempted in the history of this country to revive — as one of the three legs of the stool — to revive our economy. We have never attempted to, as transparently and as accountably, get as much money out into the states as quickly in order to help you with countercyclical help, in terms of your budgets, in terms of your employees, whether it’s cops or teachers. Nor have we ever invested this much money since Eisenhower in the — invested in the Interstate Highway System and the infrastructure of this country. This is a first.
And I want to thank the Secretary for being here today, and for, quite frankly, taking the job that he’s taken. It’s not often I get introduced by a Nobel laureate. But we have, I think, one of the finest and most qualified Secretaries of Energy — I would say the most qualified since the department came into existence. And he is a no-nonsense guy that knows what he’s doing and, like all of you, wants to get this done.
It’s really amazing the turnout here — 49 of the 50 states are represented here, which says to me your governors are taking this in a deadly earnest, deadly serious way. They understand the value to your state, but also the responsibility that we have. You know, I love it, my grandchildren laugh when they — when President Obama says nobody messes with Joe — (laughter)
— talk to my grandkids, then my kids, then my wife, then my staff, but I can tell you one thing, my passion to make sure this is done right, it may exceed my abilities. But I’m telling you this is not anything that I am fooling around with, nor I expect any of you.
Because, folks, look, let’s get this straight. We’re given a great opportunity here. We’ve asked a lot of the American people, a great deal of the American people, in supporting this effort. And so this is a different deal. This is not your usual federal grant going to states. And I want to be blunt with you, off-script here: The fact of the matter is all that is legal is not acceptable. Let me say it again. Just because it may be legal, it is not acceptable — some of it.
For example, you’re going to see regulations announced on Friday by the President, with me with him, about things you’d ordinarily be able to spend federal money on, but we are not going to let you spend federal money on. And I suspect most of you would not want to do it anyway.