“He seems to be trying to play both sides of the fence. He might refuse some of the money, he might take some of the money,” said Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Scott Jordan.
“We’ve got almost $2 billion, education, health care, coastal restoration,” he said. “The notion that Governor Jindal would turn down money that would help in those areas … is just crazy.”
Congressional Democrats, anticipating that some Republican governors might reject the money, wrote a clause into the bill allowing the money to be disbursed over the objection of governors if the state legislatures pass resolutions accepting the money.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, wrote the clause into the bill to circumvent early threats by Mr. Sanford, a provision that won him praise for his foresight from the mayors who met with Mr. Obama at the White House.
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said after the meeting that Mr. Jindal’s tough talk, though he hadn’t at the time officially said “no,” was probably about his political ambitions.
“The governor of the state of Louisiana is a Republican. I think he’s been tapped as the up-and-coming Republican to potentially run for president the next time it goes around. So he has a certain vernacular and a certain way he needs to talk right now,” Mr. Nagin said.
Still, Mr. Nagin said he expects the state to use the legislative work-around provision.
“I told the governor personally, any dollars he does not want, we will take them gladly,” he said.
Mrs. Palin already has pushed the decision onto the state Legislature while still warning of “strings” attached to the federal handout.
“The governor has said that she would be wary of federal money that would create ongoing appropriations obligations that would fall to the state once the stimulus injection is gone,” said Bill McAllister, spokesman for the one-time vice presidential candidate.
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 will do the same to state and local officials. On Thursday, Mr. Obama created a White House Office of Urban Affairs to help him coordinate policy toward cities.
As the meeting with the mayors began Friday, those present 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 a while.
“Welcome back to the White House,” he told them when the applause died down.