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Biden urges mayors to push Congress for aid

 

ORLANDO, FL -- Vice President Joe Biden on Friday enlisted America's mayors to combat partisanship on Capitol Hill, urging them to fight for immediate federal measures to aid local governments still battered by the recession.

Speaking to an annual conference of the nation's mayors, Biden urged city administrators to lobby congressional Republicans to end "obstructionism" impeding federal infrastructure and transportation assistance.

"This is an election year. Believe me I understand," the vice president said. "But regardless of which party you belong to, I think all of us in this room understand there are certain things that are bigger than the party."

Noting that he was not trying to come off as "a wise guy," Biden specifically thanked GOP mayors in the crowd for their help during the early stages of the recovery effort.

"I hope those of you who are Republicans will tell your Republican colleagues in the House that some of this shouldn't be partisan," he said.

"Man, if I sound frustrated, it's because I am!" he interjected at one point.

Biden, who was tasked with working with local elected officials to implement the 2009 stimulus act, lamented the melting away of past bipartisan agreement on federal aid.

"It's called infrastructure," he declared. "It's the stuff that makes businesses competitive."

"Over the past 40 years, it's not been about whether we do these things, it's been about how we do it," he added.

The vice president also offered a robust defense of the stimulus package, which Republican critics frequently paint as wasteful and lacking an impact.

"Although we were vilified at the outset by our opponents as well as saying no, the proof of the pudding is in the eating," he said. "And now after its implementation the vast majority of economists acknowledge the Recovery Act kept us from going over a cliff."

Biden's speech to the group of mayors came as the Obama administration has stepped up pressure on House Republicans --  and by extension, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney -- to embrace measures to step up funds for public sector workers and offer tax incentives to spur hiring.

Hitting some colloquial notes, the vice president won laughter for praising the city administrators in the audience, whose jobs he called "a hell of a lot" harder than his own role as a nationally-dubbed foreign policy expert.

"I think you're all crazy," he said. "Being a mayor, that's a real job, man. They know where you live."