Friday, February 06, 2009

Dreams Of Bipartisan Stimulus Fading Fast

Feb 6: While few people actually know what is in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the political tensions and rhetoric are building on both sides of the aisle. Whatever is inside the current version of the massive bill with amendments -- the Democrats are for it; and the Republicans are against it. The House-passed bill [See WIMS 1/29/09] is being reworked in the Senate and it appears that there will be a vote on passage later today (February 6), or over the weekend. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he thinks he has the necessary 60 votes for passage; however, it will likely be a very close vote. Then a Conference Committee will attempt to resolve differences and send the bill to the President for his signature. Likely, results are an $800+ billion stimulus -- approximately $300 billion in tax cuts and $500 billion in spending; with maybe $100 billion on infrastructure including roads, bridges, mass transit, flood control, clean water projects, and other projects.

Even the President appears to have lost his patience, saying on February 4, "It is not merely a prescription for short-term spending – it’s a strategy for long-term economic growth in areas like renewable energy, health care, and education. Now, in the past few days I’ve heard criticisms of this plan that echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can ignore fundamental challenges like energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive. I reject that theory, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change.”

Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement saying that echoed the President’s message of urgency saying, "Quite simply, we cannot wait. We cannot wait another two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. We cannot wait. Our economic recovery package is now before the Senate. It will put us back on track to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a release on February 5, saying the economic Recovery Plan, "must not be weakened with failed Bush-era theories." She said, "As we work toward bipartisan consensus, the President has made clear that any modification that changes the focus from creating jobs and transforming our economy from top to bottom or that weakens the economic impact of this package is unacceptable."

Republican Senators say the bill needs a "massive overhaul." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said "Now is the time to act -- but it’s not the time to act foolishly. . . “action for the sake of action is almost always unwise. What’s needed is the right action. And the stimulus plan that Democrats in the House and Senate have proposed is not the right action. . . Including interest, the proposal before us comes to a staggering $1.3 trillion -- a figure that makes most peoples’ head spin. It includes billions in wasteful spending. And it increases permanent federal spending by nearly $300 billion -- locking in bigger and bigger deficits every year. Apparently, the authors of this bill just couldn’t resist inserting scores of long-cherished pet projects. That’s how you end up with $70 million for climate research, tens of millions to spruce up government office buildings here in Washington, and $20 million for the removal of fish passage barriers in a stimulus package that was supposed to be timely, targeted, and temporary. . ."

The independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released recent reports on the House passed H.R. 1 and the Senate Substitute bill for H.R. 1. The reports include: (1) H.R. 1, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (January 30, 2009 ); (2) H.R. 1, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (February 2, 2009 ); and (3) Estimated Macroeconomic Effects of the Inouye-Baucus Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 1 (February 4, 2009 ) [See links below].

Access a release from the House Speaker including the President's statement (
click here). Access the VP's statement (click here). Access a release from the Senate Minority Leader (click here). Access the CBO reports: #1 (click here); #2 (click here); and #3 (click here). Access the debate on the bill on cable TV (C-SPAN2). Access voting action roll call votes on the various amendments and links to details (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 1 (click here). [*All]