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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obama says $155m in health funding means jobs, too

President Obama announced yesterday the latest dividend from the $787 billion economic stimulus package he championed: the release of $155 million for 126 new health centers, enough, he said, to provide basic care to 750,000 Americans and to create 5,500 jobs.

"These health centers will expand access to care by helping people in need, many with no health insurance, obtain access to comprehensive primary and preventive healthcare services," Obama said. "That helps relieve the burden on emergency rooms across the country, which have become primary care clinics for too many who lack coverage, often at taxpayer expense.

According to the White House, Massachusetts will get $1.3 million, enough for 7,060 patients and 50 jobs. Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts said the Bay State money will go to North Shore Community Health Inc., which has centers in Salem and Peabody and plans to open one in Gloucester.

"This funding is a lifeline for the seniors, new and expectant parents, and families who depend on North Shore Community Health Center for their medical care," Kerry said in a statement.

The other New England totals: Connecticut, $1.3 million, 5,240 patients, 40 jobs; Maine, $2.6 million, 11,170 patients, 85 jobs; New Hampshire, $930,000, 2,100 patients, 15 jobs; Rhode Island, $2.4 million, 7,380 patients, 55 jobs; and Vermont, $1.3 million, 4,170 patients, 30 jobs.

Obama aides say earmarks are 'last year's business'
Top aides to President Obama continue to dismiss criticism of a $410 billion spending bill, laden with more than 8,500 pet projects, as "last year's business."

Technically, it's true, since the bill would finish out the current federal fiscal year, which started last Oct. 1. But Senator John McCain, Obama's Republican presidential rival, is having none of it.

"That's insulting to the American people," McCain said on the Senate floor yesterday as he blistered Obama for agreeing to sign the bill, which the senator said includes "billions and billions of dollars of unneeded and wasteful spending."

McCain pointed out that Obama promised during their campaign to get rid of earmark spending as part of changing the culture of Washington. "So much for the promise of change," said McCain, who has tried for years to eliminate earmarks.

Asked about the issue yesterday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs replied, "We are regrettably dealing with leftover business," adding that Obama has "been clear about where he stands on this and what we'll do going forward to change the rules of the road."

Limbaugh, Steele face off in tiff over GOP leadership
Rush Limbaugh apparently wants to be the voice of the opposition as the Republican Party tries to recover from the November elections. And Democrats are only too happy to oblige, seeing the conservative radio talk show host as a sure-fire way to fire up their base.

Limbaugh gave a stemwinder of a speech Saturday, complete with chest thumping and fist bumps, imploring conservatives to stand by their principles. He made no apologies for his biting criticism of President Obama, including telling his listeners in January that "I hope he fails."

"What is so strange about being honest and saying I want Barack Obama to fail, if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?" Limbaugh said at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Asked about Limbaugh's comments, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the question should be posed to Republicans: "Do they want to see the president's economic agenda fail?"

Besides the White House, Limbaugh is also in a spat with Michael Steele, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee.

"I'm the de facto leader of the Republican Party," Steele said on CNN's "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News" Saturday night. "Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer."

Limbaugh's show is sometimes "incendiary," Steele said. "Yes, it's ugly."

On his show yesterday, Limbaugh fired back at Steele, suggesting that he was being used by the liberal media. "I frankly am stunned that the chairman of the Republican National Committee endorses such an agenda," Limbaugh said. "I have to conclude that he does because he attacks me for wanting it to fail."