- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

President Obama told the nation’s mayors Friday they’ve been given a big opportunity to spend the $787 billion economic recovery spending bill, but warned them if they waste a dollar of the money he will “call them out on it.”

“What I will need from all of you is unprecedented responsibility and accountability on all of our parts,” he said. “The American people are watching. They need this plan to work. They expect to see the money they’ve earned, they’ve worked so hard to earn, spent in its intended purposes.”

The spending bill includes tens of billions of dollars in aid to states to help them keep government workers on their payrolls, and includes separate lines of money to build road and infrastructure projects throughout the country.

Meeting with the governors in the White House’s East Room, Mr. Obama said if he saw wasteful spending in those projects, he will use his office to stop it.

During the bruising legislative battle over the $787 billion bill critics exposed billions of dollars going to questionable purposes. Some projects were cut from the bill, but critics, including many congressional Republicans, say many contentious items are still left.

Facing those questions, Mr. Obama has spent the days since he signed the bill urging those who will spend the money to be vigilant.

His administration has created recovery.gov, which he says will allow taxpayers to track all of the bill’s spending and to submit comments if they see wasteful items.

Mr. Obama said he will call out any federal agency that he thinks is wasting money, and said he will do the same for state and local officials.

On Thursday Mr. Obama created a White House Office of Urban Affairs to help him coordinate policy towards cities.

As the meeting with the mayors began Friday, the mayors gave Mr. Obama an extended round of applause and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could be heard over the microphone saying “they haven’t been here in awhile.”

“Welcome back to the White House,” he told them when the applause died down.

It’s the second time Mr. Biden has pointedly implied groups were kept out of the White House under President George W. Bush’s administration. Mr. Biden made the same “welcome back” remark to union leaders in a similar East Room ceremony in the administration’s earliest days.