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Obama backs rapidly spending stimulus cash: W.House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is committed to ensuring that 75 percent of any money included in his proposed $825 billion stimulus package is spent within 18 months to have a quick impact on the ailing U.S. economy, the White House said on Friday.

“There’s no question that the president believes that the bill is stimulative,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “Our analysis of the legislation right now is that 75 percent of this money will be spent in the next 18 months to create jobs and to get people working and to get the economy moving again.”

Asked about a Congressional Budget Office report that $219 billion of the package would not be spent until 2011, Gibbs said the administration wanted to be sure there were no “air pockets” that might cause the recovery to stop all at once.

“We believe, looking at the package as it exists, that 75 percent of the money will be spent out in an 18-month period of time with great stimulative effect,” Gibbs said.

The White House later provided reporters with a letter by Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, underscoring the administration’s commitment to a stimulus plan that would take effect rapidly.

“Our analysis indicates that at least 75 percent of the overall package ... will be spent over the next year and a half,” said the letter, which was addressed to Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget Committee.

“We are committed to maintaining at least a 75 percent spend-out rate for the package as a whole,” Orszag said in the letter.

Gibbs also said Obama would move quickly to strengthen the financial regulatory system and that failure to act against the recession could quickly cause double-digit unemployment.