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Biden sends a message to labor leaders: I'm no Cheney

January 30, 2009 |  9:30 am

Vice President Joe Biden

Jimmy Hoffa Jr. was there. So was the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney, and Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers.

"Welcome back to the White House," said Vice President Joe Biden to a crowd of labor leaders and officials of nonprofit organizations.

The crowd laughed, a measure of sweet vindication after eight years in the wilderness during George W. Bush's tenure.

The rhetoric must have sounded sweet too.

President Obama talked about the morning's dour economic numbers -- real GDP fell at an annual rate of 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2008, the largest one-quarter fall since 1982 -- and warned Congress that "we can't drag our feet or delay much longer." Signing an executive order for a new task force on the middle class, Obama said:

The strength of our economy can be measured by the strength of our middle class. That is why I have signed a memorandum to create the Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families -– and why I have asked my vice president to lead it. This is a difficult moment. But I believe, if we act boldly and swiftly, it can be an American moment, when we work through our differences and overcome our divisions to face this crisis."

As for Biden, hailed by the president as "the pride of Delaware," the vice president predicted that both wealthy and poor Americans benefit when the middle class prospers.

Oh yeah, and he had a parting shot for former Vice President Dick Cheney. Without mentioning the energy task force that Cheney famously convened in private, Biden promised he would meet "openly ... with transparency" in gathering ideas from the middle class task force, whose first meeting is Feb. 27 in Philadelphia.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: White House

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