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Obama Bypasses Congress In Move To Bolster Rural Economies

Obama Bypasses Congress In Move To Bolster Rural Economies
2/21/2012 1:37 PM ET

The Obama Administration on Tuesday rolled out a three-part plan to spur rural economies, using methods meant to bypass legislative action - part of an effort to push economic stimulus without sparking another face-off with Congress.

Under the initiative, the government would prioritize the purchase of bio-based products, promote rural job growth and develop a rural health care workforce. This will be accomplished through executive orders which do not require congressional approval.

"Today's announcements reflect our continued focus on expanding opportunity for rural Americans and all Americans, including supporting new and innovative businesses, and improving rural health care and education," Obama said in the statement.

Specifically, Tuesday's initiatives direct the federal government to accelerate its bio-based purchasing process over the next two years, and to focus on products such as paints, solvents, soaps, detergents and lubricants. The number of products that are designated as bio-based would also expand by 50 percent.

Meanwhile, jobs in rural areas will be promoted by a nation-wide program valued at $15 million, with efforts coordinated among several federal agencies. The program streamlines the process for obtaining technical assistance and grant or loan programs.

The health care initiative would increase and better coordinate resources for technical and community colleges, which will aim to train and equip civilians in rural areas as health care information technicians at local hospitals.

The new initiative was announced Tuesday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Health Resources and Services Administration head Mary Wakefield.

Wakefield said rural access to health care would inevitably be boosted as a result.

Vilsack, a former Iowa governor and head of a special panel Obama created to focus on rural economies, said the administration is working to coordinate efforts among various agencies. He also cited a study in Iowa that showed bio-based fuels and renewable energy initiatives can spur tens of thousands of new jobs despite the Hawkeye State's deep tradition of promoting ethanol.

"This is a job-creator, no question about it," he said in a conference call announcing the effort.

The announcement was the administration's latest attempt to spur the economy through executive orders instead of legislative action. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has staunchly opposed new spending initiatives, leading to bitter fights over numerous stimulus programs.

Vilsack said the administration believes the initiatives do not need re-authorization by Congress and that they can help the country move toward the long-term goal of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and foreign oil.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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