WASHINGTON — Rep. Joe Wilson, using his increased national profile from his "you lie!" yell at President Barack Obama, introduced a bill Tuesday requiring that a special board be set up to track the number of jobs created by the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, said his legislation had drawn 10 cosponsors in advance of a news conference he scheduled for today (Wednesday) at the U.S. Capitol.
"This is the people's money," Wilson told McClatchy. "Americans should understand what the billions and billions of dollars are being spent for."
The reporting last month on www.recovery.gov, the Obama administration's official stimulus Web site, of thousands of jobs in non-existent congressional districts drew days of ridicule until it was corrected.
Wilson said that fiasco compelled him to write Obama and to author his measure. He also cited a report last month by the General Accounting Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, which found "significant reporting and processing (stimulus) problems that need to be addressed."
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Obama signed into law Feb. 17, authorizes the creation of a five-member commission to monitor its operation and results.
Wilson wrote Obama a letter last month, warning that he would advance a measure to create a 10-person oversight panel if the board authorized by the stimulus bill wasn't established.
Wilson said he'd received no response from Obama. White House aides Tuesday didn't respond to requests for comment from McClatchy.
"I applaud your efforts and intention to bring transparency to such an extraordinary spending bill," Wilson wrote in his letter. "However, recent media reports have indicated that there are major discrepancies and inaccuracies in reporting on recovery.gov."
Wilson told Obama that the stimulus legislation allowed for the establishment of a Recovery Independent Advisory Panel, consisting of five members appointed by the president.
Under the original stimulus measure, the advisory panel would make recommendations for preventing fraud or waste to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the new executive agency charged with implementing the plan to jump-start the economy.
"I still hope the president will appoint the panel that he has the authority to appoint so that this legislation wouldn't even be necessary," Wilson said.
Wilson acknowledged that his heightened fame in the wake of his Sept. 9 "you lie!" shout at Obama has increased his influence.
"I would say that my (increased) profile has assisted in bringing attention to this issue," he said. "I'm very grateful that I do have significant name recognition, and people are helping."
Wilson said 10,000 people across the country have signed an online petition supporting his legislation at www.joewilsonforcongress.com
Fellow South Carolina Reps. Bob Inglis and Gresham Barrett have cosponsored Wilson's bill, along with eight other House Republicans: Jack Kingston and Paul Broun of Georgia, Mark Souder of Indiana, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Jeff Miller of Florida, Randy Forbes of Virginia and Todd Akin of Missouri.
Under Wilson's measure, the president would appoint the stimulus panel's chairman and congressional leaders from both parties would name its other nine members.
To read Wilson's bill: http://www.joewilson.house.gov/images/stories/arra.pdf
To see November 2009 General Accounting Office report on stimulus oversight: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10223.pdf