Biden predicts more jobs

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration "misread" the depth of the economic troubles it inherited and still expects more new jobs in the long term as the spending pace from the $787 billion stimulus plan quickens, Vice President Joe Biden said.

Republican congressional leaders expressed disappointment about the impact of stimulus spending. "I'm very skeptical that the spending binge that we're on is going to produce much good and, even if it does, anytime soon," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement Sunday.

"I think the economy is just as likely to begin to recover on its own, wholly aside from this, before much of this has an impact."

Biden, in an interview that aired on ABC's "This Week," said the 9.5 percent unemployment rate is "much too high." The administration had predicted unemployment would stay below 8 percent with its stimulus plan.

"The figures we worked off of in January were the consensus figures and most of the blue chip indexes out there," Biden said. "We misread how bad the economy was, but we are now only about 120 days into the recovery package."

He cited the economic conditions inherited from the Bush administration. "It's now our responsibility. So the second question becomes ... is it the right package given the circumstances we're in? And we believe it is the right package given the circumstances we're in."

While Biden argued that more jobs will be created in the coming months, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said the GOP had wanted the bill to focus on small businesses and helping people keep more of what they earned.

"This was supposed to be about jobs, jobs and jobs. And the fact is it turned into nothing more than spending, spending and more spending on a lot of big government bureaucracy," Boehner said.

Even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said no one is satisfied with the results of the stimulus so far. "But we believe the stimulus was absolutely essential," he said.

Biden noted that the plan was set up to spend the money over 18 months. Major programs will take effect in September, including $7.5 billion for broadband Internet service, plus new money for high-speed rail and the nation's electrical grid, he said.

Biden said it's premature to say whether the country will need a second stimulus package.

Other issues Biden discussed during his ABC interview:

_Asked whether the United States would put the lives of U.S. troops on the line should violence flare up again in Iraq, he said "no." The U.S. still plans to withdraw all troops by 2011, Biden said. "We believe the Iraqis will be fully capable of maintaining their own security."

_Biden said if the Iranian government seeks to engage in a dialogue with the United States, the U.S. will engage. "The offer's on the table."

_Biden said Israel has the right to pursue a different course of action on Iran than the U.S. does. "Look, Israel can determine for itself — it's a sovereign nation — what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else."

_On North Korea's Saturday launch of missiles, he said such actions appear to be efforts to seek attention. "The question is, is there anything that we should do about it?" Arguing that the U.S. policy has been correct so far, he said, "We have succeeded in uniting the most important and critical countries to North Korea on a common path of further isolating North Korea."

_The Obama administration is "well on the way" to resolving a dispute between CIA Director Leon Panetta and National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, Biden said. The conflict centers on Blair's effort to choose his own representatives at U.S. embassies instead of relying only on CIA station chiefs. "He declined to give details.