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Public Statements

American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, the amendment I have is a product of a lot of work from a number of Senators on this side of the aisle. I especially thank Senator Martinez of Florida, a great leader on this issue, along with Senator Thune, Senator Graham, and many other Senators who have been involved in this discussion. This is an alternative we believe would truly create jobs and stimulate our economy. The total cost is around $421 billion.

I wish, before I describe the amendment--and I know others of my colleagues want to discuss this amendment--I wish to point out it is very clear that public opinion in this country is swinging against the proposal that is now before the Senate and was passed by the other body. They are opposed because they see now in the Senate a $995 billion package which could reach more than $1.2 trillion. Many Americans, certainly now a majority, do not see it as a way to create jobs and to stimulate our economy. They see it loaded down with unnecessary spending programs. They see it, very correctly, with policy changes which deserve extended debate and voting on their own, such as ``Buy American'' provisions, Davis-Bacon, giving Federal workers new whistleblower protections. Some of these policy changes may be laudable, others are not, at least in my view, but all of them deserve debate and discussion rather than being placed in a piece of legislation that is intended to stimulate our economy and create jobs.

I think it is time that we also understand how we got where we are. I have been around this body long enough to recognize that we are now entering the final phase of consideration of this package. Whether it be today or over the weekend or early next week, this bill will be disposed of one way or another by the Senate. So how did we get to where we are today, with a $995 billion package, at least, or $1.2 trillion, or perhaps more than that, with a bill that probably would create, in the view of the administration--and I do not agree with it--3 million jobs, which would mean that each job that is created by it costs the taxpayers $275,000. I do not think many Americans believe that each job created should cost $275,000 of their hard-earned tax dollars.

In fact, the response my office is getting borders on significant anger when we talk about many of the funding programs that are in the stimulus bill. I will go through several of them later on, but $400 million for STD prevention; $40 million to make park services more energy efficient; $75 million for smoking cessation. It is hard to argue that, even though these provisions, many of them, may be worthwhile, they actually create jobs. So we have strayed badly from our original intent of creating a situation in America to reverse the terrible decline and economic ditch in which we find the American economy, to the point we have had spending programs and policy provisions which have nothing to do with stimulating the economy and creating jobs. It may be Government--let me put it this way. It may be legislative activity, possibly, at its worst.

We are offering today an alternative at less than half the cost that we think creates jobs and stimulates the economy. I remind my colleagues, despite the rhetoric about bipartisanship, this bill originated in the House of Representatives, as is constitutionally appropriate. There was no Republican input whatsoever. It passed the other body on a strict party-line basis with the loss of 11 Democrats and came over to this body, where in both the Appropriations and the Finance Committees, almost every Republican amendment was rejected on party lines.

I appreciate very much that the President of the United States came over to address Republican Members of the Senate and Republican Members of the House. The tenor of his remarks I think was excellent. But the fact is, we did not sit down and seriously negotiate between Republican and Democrat. I have been involved in many bipartisan efforts in this body, for many years, that have achieved legislative result. The way you achieve it is not to come over and talk to a body. The answer is to sit down and seriously negotiate and come up with compromises which result in legislation which is good for the country.

That has not happened in this process. Again, the American people are figuring it out. I am confident, because of the way this process has taken place, that gap, which is now 43-37, the majority of the American people opposing this package, will grow.

A majority of the American people still believe we have to stimulate the economy and create jobs. I agree with them. But to spend $1.2 trillion on it, and have no provision for when the economy recovers to put us back on the path of fiscal sanity and stability--as the amendment that I had last night was rejected; we got 44 vote--does not provide the American people with confidence that spending will stop at some time.

One thing they have learned is that spending programs that are initially supposed to be temporary become permanent. They become permanent. That is a historical fact.

So we have initiated nearly $1 trillion--many in new spending, some hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending--with no provision, once the economy has recovered--and the economy will recover in America--this is no path to balancing the budget. Instead, we laid a $700 billion debt on future generations of America in the form of TARP, we are laying $1.2 trillion additional in the form of this bill, and another half a trillion dollars in the omnibus appropriations bill, and then we are told there will be a necessity for another TARP, which could be as much as $1 trillion, because of our declining economy. Yet there has been no provision whatsoever, once the economy recovers, to put us back on a path to balancing the budget and reducing and perhaps eliminating--hopefully eliminating--this debt we have laid on future generations of Americans.

I used to come down to the floor here, and have over the years, and argue against provisions in appropriations bills--which, by the way, has led to corruption. I notice there is another individual staffer who is being charged today, or yesterday, for inappropriate behavior with Mr. Abramoff.

There used to be hundreds of thousands and sometimes thousands. Now, they are in the millions and billions, tens of millions and billions. My how we have grown.

Do we need $1 billion for national security at the Nuclear Security Administration Weapons Activities to create jobs? We may need $1 billion for National Nuclear Security Administration Weapons Activity, but to say it will create jobs and will stimulate the economy is a slender reed.

There is nobody who appreciates more than this person the contribution that Filipino war veterans made to winning the Second World War. We are going to give millions of dollars to those who live in the Philippines. Do not label that as job stimulation.

Smoking cessation is something that we all support. How does $75 million for smoking cessation create jobs within the next years that would justify expenditures of $75 million?

This body, in the name of increasing health care for children, raised taxes by some $61 billion, I guess it is, on tobacco use. So we now hope people will use tobacco in order to pay for insurance for children. But the fact is, $75 million for smoking cessation should be an issue that is brought up separately and on its own. And the list goes on and on and on.

Our proposal--I am grateful for the participation of so many Senators--would allocate approximately $275 billion in tax cuts. It would eliminate the 3.1 percent payroll tax for all employees for 1 year and use general revenues to pay for the Social Security obligation.

It would allocate $60 billion to lower the 10-percent tax bracket to 5 percent for 1 year. It would lower the 15-percent tax bracket to 10 percent for 1 year. It would lower corporate tax brackets from 35 percent to 25 percent for 1 year.

We alarmed the world with the ``Buy American'' provisions which are included in this bill. The reaction has been incredible, and the fact is, jobs flee America for a number of reasons. But one of them is we have the highest business taxes of any nation in the world. We used to have among the lowest.

So if we really want to create jobs in America and attract capital and investment for the United States of America, we need to lower the corporate tax bracket. We need to have accelerated depreciation for capital investments for small businesses. We need to assist Americans in need, there is no doubt about that. There are Americans who are wounded and are hurting today. It is not their fault.

We need to extend the unemployment insurance benefits. That is a $38 billion pricetag. We need to extend food stamps. We need to extend unemployment insurance benefits, make them tax free. That is a $10 billion pricetag. And, of course, we need to provide workers with training and employment. That is a $50 billion cost.

We need to keep families in their homes. We needed, and we did adopt last night, the $15,000 tax credit. But we also need to fund the increase in the fee that servicers receive from continuing a mortgage and avoiding foreclosure. We need to have GSE and FHA conforming loan limits. That is $32 billion. We also, by the way, need to do more in the housing area.

You know, it is interesting in all of these spending proposals we have, there is not one penny for defense, not one penny. Obviously, we are going to have to reset our military. We need to replace the aging equipment that has been used so heavily in Iraq and will be needed in Afghanistan.

We need to improve and repair and modernize the barracks, the facilities and infrastructure that directly support the readiness and training of the Armed Forces. We do not have that in the now $995 billion package that is before us. Obviously, we need to spend money on military construction projects which will create jobs immediately. Those people who say that is not the case, I can provide for the record adequate information that many of our military construction projects could begin more quickly than those that are not on our military bases because of environmental and other concerns.

We need to spend $45 billion on transportation infrastructure. There are grants to States to build and repair roads and bridges, including $10 billion for discretionary transportation grants, and $1 billion for roads on Federal lands. Public transit, obviously, we need to fund, and airport infrastructure improvements are necessary, along with small business loans. That is about $63 billion in our proposal.

Finally, the American people believe, and I think correctly, spending is out of control in our Nation's Capital. We continue to spend and spend and spend. We not only have accumulated over a $10 trillion deficit, this will add another $1 trillion or more. I mentioned the TARP of $700 billion, all of which is being paid for--we are printing money in order to fund it.

At some point we are going to have to get our budget balanced or our children and our grandchildren are going to pay the bill. I recommend that this body hear as much as possible from David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office, in the Congress of the United States. He paints a stark picture. In my view, it is also time that we establish entitlement commissions: one for Social Security and one for Medicare-Medicaid and make recommendations so we can act on what is a multi-trillion-dollar deficit in Social Security and over a $40 trillion debt on Medicare and Medicaid.

Unless we address these long-term entitlement issues, there is no way we are going to be able to prevent the majority of Americans' taxes from being devoted to those two programs. So we need to establish those commissions and we need to put them to work and we need to put them to work right away.

Now, I am told there is general agreement. Why not do it now? Why not do it now? We also need better accountability, better transparency, better oversight, and better results. Among many disappointments we have over TARP, one was that we were told the Congress and the American people would have oversight and transparency, and they would know exactly how that initial $350 billion was being spent.

The American people and Members of Congress have been bitterly disappointed as TARP shifted from one priority to another. Funds went to the automotive industry, which none of us had anticipated when we voted for and approved it. We need more transparency and accountability and oversight of how this, probably the biggest single emergency spending package in the history of this country, is being spent.

I notice I have other Members here who wish to speak on this issue. I hope we can pass this alternative, some $421 billion, to what has now surged to over $1 trillion. It probably may not pass for the reasons of numbers, but if we do not sit down and negotiate and come up with a package that is more than a $50- or $60- or $80 billion reduction, when we are talking about $1.2 trillion, the American people will not be well served.

They will not be well served by requiring Davis-Bacon, they will not be well served by requiring ``Buy American,'' they will not be well served by spending their hard-earned dollars on unnecessary programs that even though in the eyes of some may have virtue, have no or very little association with job creation and relief for Americans who are struggling to stay in their homes and either keep their jobs or go out and find a new one.

I believe the United States of America will recover from the economic crisis. I have a fundamental faith, belief, that American workers are the most productive, the most innovative, and the best in the world. But they need some help right now. What they need is the right kind of help.

I urge my colleagues, when you see the money that is being spent in the name of job creation and stimulus that is laying a debt burden on our children and our grandchildren, we need to have serious consideration of this kind of spending because it is not fair, not only to this generation of Americans but to future generations as well.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. GRAHAM. Absolutely.

Mr. McCAIN. Is the Senator aware of my strong support for the compensation that our great Filipino allies in World War II rendered to this Nation and to the country?

Mr. GRAHAM. Yes.

Mr. McCAIN. And is it also clear that there are many wrongs that need to be righted through funding, including our own veterans, including hospitals, including medical care, including PTSD?

Mr. GRAHAM. A long list.

Mr. McCAIN. So does the Senator believe that compensation for that which is not under the label of stimulus to our economy and restoring our economy or creating jobs is not what is needed to be addressed in this bill?

Mr. GRAHAM. I could not agree with the Senator from Arizona more.

Mr. McCAIN. So could I finally ask the Senator, is there any question of anybody's patriotism or love of country or the outstanding and magnificent service rendered in World War II by our brave Filipino allies?

Mr. GRAHAM. No.

Mr. McCAIN. I thank the Senator for answering my questions.

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Mr. McCAIN. If the Senator will yield, did the Senator see the AP News release this morning at 11:30 that the chairwoman of the congressional oversight panel for the bailout funds told the Senate Banking Committee that the Treasury, in 2008, paid $254 billion and received assets worth about $176 billion? I think everybody knows we passed TARP in a big hurry, just as this legislation has not gone through the hearings and the normal process. So, apparently, according to the chairperson of the congressional oversight panel for bailout funds, in 2008, our Treasury paid $254 billion and received assets worth $176 billion. It seems to me that is about $80 billion that the taxpayers lost.

Mr. COBURN. Yes, the taxpayers lost $80 billion. I voted for the original TARP money because we were told that money was going to address the toxic assets, which is the problem we need to solve first.

I spoke on the floor two nights ago using the corollary of treating symptoms versus treating disease. This bill treats symptoms; it doesn't treat disease. I know several colleagues are waiting to talk.

With that, I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. I will speak for a couple of minutes about what the Senator from Montana talked about, the Congressional Budget Office report today. Basically, it says that this present legislation before us, the stimulus package, would increase employment at that point in time by 1.3 million to 3.9 million jobs. I did the math on that, and 1.3 million jobs by the end of 2010 comes to $680,769 per job. If the most optimistic estimate of 3.9 million new jobs created between now and the last quarter of 2010, it is only $226,923 per job.

Interesting comments by the Congressional Budget Office, which says on page 5:

In principle, the legislation's long-run impact on output also would depend on whether it permanently changed incentives to work or save. However, according to CBO's estimates, the legislation would not have any significant permanent effects on these incentives.

They go on to say:

CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net.

That is easy to understand because we will be paying interest on a huge debt of multitrillions of dollars as a result of this legislation.

As the CBO says:

To the extent that people hold their wealth as government bonds rather than in a form that can be used to finance private investment, the increased debt would tend to reduce the stock of productive capital. In economic parlance, the debt would crowd out private investment.

Again, what we are doing is mortgaging our children's and our grandchildren's futures.

The President today said:

They [talking about those of us who support my amendment] are rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve all of our problems.

They are rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve our problems. I urge someone to tell the President of the United States that we have $421 billion of tax cuts and spending in this proposal, and spending that is meaningful and creates jobs, not loaded down with porkbarrel projects and certainly not one that approaches over $1 trillion on future generations of Americans.

We ought to change Washington. We ought to change the way we are conducting this legislation, especially in partisan, nonconsultative fashion. If the leadership can peal off two or three Republicans, that is an accomplishment they will make, but it is not bipartisanship.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, the stimulus package would be a disaster for our children and our grandchildren. According to CBO, it would create 1.3 million to 3.9 million jobs between now and the end of the year 2010. That is a huge expenditure. It has fundamental policy changes, and it is the biggest spending bill probably in the history of this country.

We have legislation which creates jobs, which cuts taxes and spends on infrastructure, more on Defense and the reset, and I believe that is the best for this country.

Madam President, we all know we have to stimulate this economy and create jobs. The question is how you do it: profligacy versus, I believe, a mature and responsible approach to reversing and saving our economy.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.

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