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White House begins new stimulus push

By Dan Lothian and Paul Steinhauser, CNN
  • Biden says more than $600 billion in stimulus funds allocated
  • 2.3 million jobs created or saved, vice president says
  • Six-week push to highlight job creation under stimulus program
  • Obama, Biden traveling to Ohio, Michigan to discuss jobs

Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration's economic stimulus program has allocated $620 billion so far and created or saved at least 2.3 million jobs, Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday.

Biden appeared at the daily White House news briefing to kick off what the White House calls "Recovery Summer," a six-week push to highlight what the administration says will be jobs created this summer and fall by a surge in federal stimulus spending across the country.

The vice president, who oversees implementation of the Recovery Act, said the stimulus program enacted into law in February 2009 was "moving into its highest gear here in terms of direct investments in projects."

"The Recovery Act is working," Biden said. "It's going to continue to work. It's not over."

Republican critics say the stimulus program failed to hold down unemployment to the 8 percent level originally predicted by the administration, and that it hasn't caused the private sector to create jobs at a meaningful level.

Biden disagreed, telling reporters that the unemployment figure rose higher than anyone expected and the situation would be worse without the stimulus bill.

"This is the basis on which further recovery is going to occur," Biden said.

The stimulus, which is formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was designed to stimulate the country's economy by increasing federal government spending and cutting taxes at a total cost to the government of $862 billion. No Republicans in the House and only three in the Senate voted in favor of the bill.

The stimulus was initially believed to have a price tag of $787 billion, but earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office hiked its forecast for how much the stimulus will add to the nation's deficit, raising its estimate by $75 billion.

On Friday, President Barack Obama travels to Columbus, Ohio, to mark the groundbreaking of what's touted as the 10,000th Recovery Act road project. Then on Monday, Biden visits Midland, Michigan, for the groundbreaking of a new advanced battery manufacturing facility, which was made possible by a $161-million stimulus grant awarded last year.

In addition to the Obama and Biden events, the White House says that five Cabinet members and other senior officials will hold kickoff ceremonies across the country in coming days. Those are to be the first of more than two dozen site visits and groundbreakings that administration officials will participate in across the country in coming weeks.

In a status report on the Recovery Act that Biden filed to Obama on Thursday, the vice president outlined the spending so far. It includes $223 billion in tax relief for families and businesses, $227 billion in financial assistance through programs such as unemployment aid and Medicaid, and $170 billion for work on technology, innovation and infrastructure projects, Biden's report states.

This summer, Recovery Act funds will pay for more than 10,000 highway projects to improve more than 29,000 miles of highway, the report said, along with more than 2,800 clean water projects and weatherizing 82,000 homes. By the end of 2010, the report said, the stimulus program will have reached the administration's target of saving or creating 3.5 million jobs, it added.

"In the face of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, Republicans in Congress chose to play politics with economic recovery and declared the Recovery Act a failure before it even began," White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod said in a statement. "They made a cynical bet that if the president fails, they win. Democrats chose to act by tackling the crisis head-on and just over a year later the Recovery Act is putting millions of Americans to work and helping the economy grow again."

But Axelrod said the work is far from over.

"This summer will be the most active Recovery Act season yet, with thousands of highly-visible road, bridge, water and other infrastructure projects breaking ground across the country, giving the American people a first-hand look at the Recovery Act in their own backyards and making it crystal clear what the cost would have been of doing nothing."

In response, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Obama and Democrats "can continue to push their faulty message, but that won't change the fact that their failed agenda has resulted in higher unemployment, record deficits, and dozens of Democrats who are now in danger of losing their re-elections."

"The Democrats' refusal to pass a budget means missing an opportunity to rein in government spending and provide the fiscal discipline that economists say is needed to create jobs and grow the economy," Sessions said. "As long as they continue down this path, the results will speak for themselves."

CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.