VP Biden: Senate GOP Filibuster of 'Doc Fix' & Unemployment Extension is 'Shameful Example of Business as Usual'

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:

Vice President Biden slammed Republicans today for blocking a bill last night that would have extended emergency unemployment benefits for the long unemployed and averted a 21 percent pay cut for Medicare doctors.

“This time the other party decided that they weren't going to participate in trying to deal with this straight up,” the vice president said. “I urge my colleagues on the Republican side to put politics aside for a minute here and let the United States Senate vote, on behalf of seniors in this country, allowing their doctors to get paid fairly.”

Senate Democrats failed for the second time in a week to get the 60 votes needed to pass the bill.

Biden’s remarks came at an event touting the Obama Administration’s efforts to combat waste and fraud in government spending, but first he took aim at Senate Republicans for blocking what he called “a fiscally responsible agreement to protect doctors” and called the filibuster “a shameful example of business as usual.”

“Republican leaders, I would respectfully suggest, have an obligation and responsibility to stop walking away from these needs, stop playing brinksmanship and politics with this every time it rolls around and fix this problem,” he said.

Biden also unveiled the Obama Administration’s new “Do Not Pay” list which aims to halt government checks going to Americans who are not supposed to get them – like dead people and contractors who are in jail.

Biden said that over the past three years, the federal government has paid benefits totally more than $180 million to approximately 20,000 deceased Americans. He said more than $230 million has been given out to approximately 14,000 fugitive felons or those who are in jail and not eligible for benefits.

The vice president said that in 2009, improper payments by the federal government totaled nearly $110 billion – the highest amount to date.

Biden said the Obama Administration intends to crack down on this kind of fraud.

"This stuff seems obvious on its face," Biden said. "It’s no longer acceptable to take taxpayer money and put it in the wrong hands."

The list, which was established today through a presidential memorandum, is part of the White House’s efforts to cut down waste and fraud

Biden touted the Recovery Act as a solid example of a government spending program that has been executed largely without fraud. The vice president said that of the approximately 170,000 payments that went out (money for stimulus projects), the government received 3,059 complaints alleging “something shady.”

Those complaints resulted in 317 investigations, which Biden said was an impressively low figure given the magnitude of the spending in the Recovery Act.

"It is remarkable that a program this size has worked this well," in terms of fraud prevention, Biden said.

Biden said that the administration hopes that the Recovery Act will be a “template” for future federal government programs that dispense money to states, localities and individuals. He also said that he hopes the implementation of the $787 billion stimulus program will give Americans more confidence in the ability of the federal government to use taxpayer money efficiently and effectively.

Biden gave credit to the administration officials tasked with implementing the Recovery Act, as well as the governors, mayors and local officials who are monitoring projects and spending.

“Well, if I'm Sheriff Joe, I've got one hell of a posse,” he said with a laugh.

-Karen Travers

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