Other News: Biden Urges Wise Use of Stimulus Funds
[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
JIM LEHRER: In other news today, Wall Street rallied after the Federal Reserve announced sweeping new efforts to boost the housing market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 90 points to close at 7,486. The Nasdaq rose 29 points to close at 1,491.
Vice President Biden had a new warning for city and county officials today: spend the federal stimulus money wisely. The officials were in Washington for a day of schooling on the $787 billion program. Biden urged them not to use it for things like swimming pools, tennis courts, or golf courses.
JOSEPH BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: Because of the rules, the president and I can’t stop you from doing some things, but I’ll show up in your city and say, “This was a stupid idea.”
You think I’m kidding? This is the only part the president was right about: Don’t mess with Joe, because I mean it. I’m serious, guys. I’m serious. I’m absolutely serious.
JIM LEHRER: Separately, the president asked Americans, in an online video, to help him pass his budget of $3.6 trillion. The video was sent to some 14 million people, mostly voters who supported the president in his campaign last year.
The U.S. could widen its use of drone aircraft to hunt Taliban leaders deeper inside Pakistan. So far, the attacks have focused on tribal areas in the northwest, but the New York Times reported President Obama is considering expanding the covert war. The report said drones could range south to Quetta. U.S. officials believe Taliban leaders have fled there to escape attacks.
Across the border in Afghanistan, President Karzai warned the world not to meddle in his country’s politics. Without naming names, he said some members of the U.S. coalition are building up other leaders ahead of the Afghan elections. But he insisted, “Afghanistan will never be a puppet state.”
Karzai spoke as he met with the head of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The alliance chief said it will take 4,000 more troops to secure the country for the August vote. There are 60,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan now.
The U.S. Army will cut back on forcing troops to serve longer than they planned. Defense Secretary Gates announced he hopes to curtail the so-called stop-loss practice by March of 2011. He said he’ll keep the option open only in extraordinary circumstances.
ROBERT GATES, Secretary of Defense: I felt particularly in these numbers that it was breaking faith. It wasn’t a violation of the enlistment contract, but I believe that, when somebody’s end date of service comes up, to hold them against their will, if you will, is just not the right thing to do.
JIM LEHRER: Right now, some 13,000 soldiers are serving under forced extensions.
The U.S. Senate has confirmed former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk as the next U.S. trade representative. The vote was 92-5. Kirk promised to focus more on enforcing existing trade rules instead of pursuing new agreements.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to triple the size of the AmeriCorps volunteer program. It would expand to 250,000 people. Those in the program typically work for non-profit, faith-based, or other groups for 10 months to a year. Some receive a stipend to help cover living costs. The Senate takes up a similar bill next week.