By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter
EAST PEORIA, Ill. ‹ Once President Obama signs the $789 billion stimulus
package, roads will start getting built again, orders for Caterpillar trucks
will go up again and the company can start hiring back some of the 22,000
workers it plans to lay off, he said.
³Think about all the work out there to be done, and Caterpillar will be
selling the equipment that does the work,² Obama said to hundreds of
Caterpillar workers at a plant here.
He spoke in front of two new-model Caterpillar electric road-building
Obama was introduced by laid-off Caterpillar worker Dan Armstrong and
Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens, who said he hoped to be able to bring back
Armstrong and other laid-off workers eventually.
³It¹s not going to create 22,000 jobs ‹ I can tell you that right now,² said
31-year Caterpillar veteran Darrell Corbin. ³But I hope it will be able to
bring some of Œem back.²
Obama said he stopped in Peoria on his way to an Abraham Lincoln celebration
in Springfield because: ³You have to see how things are playing in Peoria.²
Obama hinted he has not given up on getting at least one Republican vote in
the House for the final version of his stimulus package, calling out local
GOP Congressman Aaron Schock, who replaced Obama¹s new Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood.
³Aaron is still trying to make up his mind about our recovery package,²
Obama said with a smile. ³He has a chance to be in the mold of [former U.S.
Rep.] Bob Michel, Ray LaHood. We know you¹re all going to talk to him after
our event because he¹s a very talented young man. I have great confidence in
him to do the right thing for the people of Peoria.²
Schock said after the event he is not optimistic that he will like the bill
‹ but he will look at it.
Also after Obama¹s speech, Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens said the 22,000 layoffs
will go ahead even if the bill is signed ‹ and there may be more layoffs
Owens said only about 20 percent of the bill is ³hard construction² projects
that will help Caterpillar, and those won¹t start helping the company until
late this year, at which point they might be able to start hiring workers