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Public Statements

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009 -- (House of Representatives - January 28, 2009)

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Mr. LEWIS of California. I very much appreciate the Chairman asking that question, and since you did, I will yield myself such time as I may consume.

I am very, very intrigued by my colleague suggesting that this bill really shouldn't bother too many people because it's long overdue and certainly desperately needed. And indeed, he was almost mocking some of those questions raised yesterday about programs, people suggesting that the money that we're talking about for the arts in some way is not stimulus, that the money that we might put in the National Mall in some ways isn't really meaningful stimulus. I have the bill here on my desk. Someone wrote earlier that the cost of this bill is approximately $1.18 billion per page.

It's about time we began to recognize that the money we're talking about is not just huge in terms of numbers of dollars, but potentially a very huge burden on future generations of Americans. As we debate this stimulus package, we're throwing around an awful lot of big numbers. But let's be very clear that these big numbers are real dollars and that real families are involved. In my own family, we have seven children, my wife and I, and from that some 11 grandchildren. Those grandchildren are going to be paying for this all their lifetime, long after the chairman and I are angels. If every American family were asked equally to shoulder the burden of this $816 billion stimulus package, it would be like asking to take on an additional $10,247 for each family.

Our constituents are already facing unprecedented economic challenges. They want credible economic stimulus.

I remember the chairman suggesting throughout this discussion that he spent an awful lot of time with us in consultation looking for input as to what ought to be in this package. I remember the first session that he and I had in his office. It wasn't a long session, but it was a stimulating one in which he suggested that the package that was going to come forth would likely be designed to stimulate the economy to create jobs. And he talked about infrastructure as being one of the major items. My goodness. The infrastructure in this bill, the infrastructure spending is something less than 10 percent of the whole package. And for shovel-ready projects, it is smaller than that. I also remember the second session I had with my chairman regarding this matter. We spent almost a whole hour together in that discussion. He asked if I had a pencil so I could write down some of the numbers. He was going to describe what might be a part of the package. I was really thrilled he was going to be that personal with his ranking member on the committee and actually get involved so we would have a chance to evaluate it. And my chairman, as he was watching me make notes and my staff making notes, decided probably not to tell me that a day and a half later he was issuing a 15-page press release before the bill had been filed that went into a considerable amount of detail, considerably more than he shared with either his ranking member or any of the rest of the members, at least on my side of the aisle, in the Appropriations Committee.

It is my understanding that many a subcommittee chairman, or at least their staff, were told very specifically that there was an embargo relative to their communicating and sharing information with our subcommittee staff people as well as subcommittee members. The minority was not included in developing this package. And it has become a horrendous package that is going to place a burden on the American people for a lifetime.

While Members are proceeding with nothing but good intentions in this package, let us be mindful of the fact that this additional burden will be placed squarely on the backs of our children. But also let us be mindful of the fact that next week we are going to be considering an omnibus package that involves over 410 billion additional dollars. And we didn't get the work done. Indeed, that package is going to come to us with all kinds of funding that should have been done and should be available already. But the chairman chose to put that spending on the shelf in order to develop this stimulus package with others in his leadership.

I presume what that really means is that within this bill is all kinds of funding that had its beginning within those nine other bills that now we are going to eventually get to next week. You combine TARP with this package, you take a look at that 400 plus billion dollars, people have been talking about additional interest costs--we are talking about in a very short period of time over $1.5 trillion that the majority is running forward with, with very little concern about the impact that this might very well have on our grandchildren.

I must say that many of us feel a little sorry for what this work will do to our families.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. LEWIS of California. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I normally would not proceed in this fashion, but I could have guessed that the chairman might react to some of those remarks that I made--especially remarks about his falling over backwards to cooperate with the minority--so I would like to take a little time to be very specific about this.

I appreciate Chairman Obey making the point that he reached out to the minority on the stimulus package. He did reach out to me, as the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, and I made three suggestions relating to how the bill could become a bill that many Republicans could support.

I suggested that Chairman Obey consider less spending, and especially removing spending for those items that are not stimulus and should be funded through the regular appropriations process. What happened? Spending on programs that don't create jobs actually increased, particularly those in the Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee that Chairman Obey chairs himself.

I suggested that Chairman Obey consider lowering the top line of spending on this package. What happened? The top line on spending actually increased.

I suggested a greater emphasis on targeted tax cuts for low-income families and small businesses. What happened? The tax relief portion of this stimulus bill got smaller as the top line on spending increased.

It's one thing to seek constructive input in the hopes of building bipartisan consensus on a bill as important as this package, but that clearly has not happened. Judging from the legislation as presently written, it's quite clear that the majority's desire is less about creating jobs and stimulating the economy and more about spending the public's money.

Do not for one minute believe that this bill reflects the input of House Republicans or even many House Democrats. This bill was largely written by two people. Any suggested negotiations on this legislation occurred between the Speaker and my chairman, Mr. OBEY. That's not a negotiation, that is a travesty, a mockery, a sham. Wow! What a shame to waste a historic opportunity to bring Republicans and Democrats together to roll up our sleeves and work in a bipartisan fashion.

It's not too late to make this a better bill, a bipartisan bill. As I said in my opening remarks, I sincerely want the President to be successful. The challenges we face do transcend politics. If the President or his staff are listening, I ask them to pursue bipartisanship so this can be a package both Democrats and Republicans will support.

I say one more time, travesty begins when there's a flat embargo at a subcommittee level when our majority staff is told they shouldn't be communicating with the minority staff. Bipartisanship is the best of our committee, and if this pattern continues, our committee is not going to be able to continue to produce products worthy of its name.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. LEWIS of California. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and it will be very short.

I would love to support the gentleman's amendment. Indeed, if there were an offset within this bill relative to those things that aren't producing jobs, this is an amendment I could get very excited about. In the meantime, it does raise the top line, and everybody should know that. I know that Mr. Oberstar loves that, for it helps him out when he is trying to pass the bill down the line when he is short of money. But in the meantime, on this side of the aisle the vast percentage of my Members would prefer that we have an offset before we start raising the line of spending. So I will reluctantly have to oppose the amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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