- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

As he prepared to sign the massive economic stimulus bill, President Obama called Saturday for the public to become watchdogs on where the $787 billion in the bill goes.

“Ultimately, this is your money, and you deserve to know where it’s going and how it’s spent,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address, promising to help with the most ambitious spending-scrutiny project the government has ever undertaken.

Mr. Obama called on “every American” to use www. recovery.gov - a Web site that will be up and running once the money begins to be spent - to track where the money is being spent and to “weigh in with comments and questions.”

Congress on Friday handed Mr. Obama his first big legislative victory, passing the final version of the spending bill, with the House voting 246-183 and the Senate 60-38 in favor. No House Republicans and only three Senate Republicans voted for the Democrats’ bill. Just seven House Democrats joined their Republican colleagues in voting “no.”

Mr. Obama plans to sign the bill Tuesday in Denver, CNN reported Saturday. He is spending this weekend at his home in Chicago.

He said the bill is important but is just the beginning of what the government must do to stabilize a foundering economy. As he has done repeatedly since taking office, Mr. Obama blamed the federal government’s fiscal problems on former President George W. Bush.

“Our debt has doubled over the past eight years, and we’ve inherited a trillion-dollar deficit,” he said, though he promised to try to submit a budget that will begin to restore discipline in spending.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, in delivering the Republican radio address in response, said Republicans agree that the economy needs help, but she said the spending bill goes too far with waste and long-term spending that won’t have any immediate job-creating benefits. She said Democrats decided “on a random dollar amount in the neighborhood of $1 trillion and then set out to fill the bucket.”

She said it also could create problems for the local officials it is supposed to help.

“One Alaska school superintendent said the increased funding means new services in his district, but that once the stimulus funding runs out, he won’t be able to pay for them. And canceling some of these programs once they’ve been created, he said, would expose his district to lawsuits,” she said.

Also Saturday, the White House released excerpts of a taped message from Mr. Obama in which the president promotes volunteerism and service. It will air during halftime of Sunday’s NBA All-Star game.

“In this time of so much need in our communities and across our country, we are blessed with endless ways to restore hope and opportunity in places that yearn for both. Prepare a care package for a soldier. Read to a child. Or fix up a local basketball court so the next generation can play and grow. I encourage everyone to join the NBA in the spirit of service to others. Just log on to USAservice.org to find or create a project near you, then gather some friends and lace ‘em up,” Mr. Obama said.

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