American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Feb. 5, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRAHAM. I thank the Chair.

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.

Mr. GRAHAM. Now, Mr. President, if I may ask the Chair to let me know when I have used 15 minutes.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair will do so.

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, this is one of the most important decisions the Congress is going to make and that the new administration is going to make in the first 4 years of the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

My good friend Senator Durbin, from Illinois, whom I look forward to working with in solving hard problems, came to the floor and said some things to which I would like to respond. Knowing that we are going to get this behind us one day and go on to other hard subjects, such as Social Security and Guantanamo Bay, and try to find some bipartisanship there, I would say that to talk about inheriting Bush's problems is relevant to a certain extent. But this is America's problem. And you can blame George Bush all you want, but he didn't write this bill. You all did. This is your bill, and it needs to be America's bill.

Now, you may get three or four Republicans to vote with you, but let me tell you what the country is going to inherit if we pass this bill in terms of substance and process. We are going to lose the ability as Members of Congress to go to the public and ask for more money--let us borrow more of your money to fix housing--because this bill stinks. The process that has led to this bill stinks.

The House did not get one Republican vote. Maybe every Republican is just crazy, but I don't think so. I think there are some Republicans in the House who understand we need a stimulus package and believe we have to do more than cut taxes. I believe we have to do more than cut taxes. But the reason you didn't get a Republican vote in the House is because Nancy Pelosi's attitude is: We won, we write the bill. Well, let me tell you, this ain't about one party winning, this is about America. And America needs the Congress and the new President to be smart and work together. We are not being smart. We are spending money on things that have nothing to do with creating a job in the near term, and the spending will go on long after this economic crisis is solved. It is not smart to say no to an amendment that would stop the spending when the economy gets back on its feet.

I want the American people to know there was an amendment offered yesterday that said when the economy starts to grow again--2 percent over inflation for two quarters in a row--we are going to stop any spending that is left to be done in this bill and reevaluate where we go. If we don't have a trigger or some brakes, we will keep spending the money no matter what the economy is doing because there are some people in this body who cannot spend enough. Now, if you feel Republicans spent too much of your money, guilty as charged. But this is not the solution. This makes us look like misers.

America believes--75 percent of the American people--that we need a stimulus. Almost 60 percent of the people believe this bill needs to be changed. Count me in that group. We need to be smart and we need to work together. We are doing neither. We are not working together.

There are 16 of my colleagues in a room somewhere in the Capitol--5 Republicans and the rest Democrats--trying to find a compromise. God bless them, but that is not the way you spend $800 billion. You don't get 16 people in a room trying to find a compromise to get to 60 votes and say that is good government.

Ronald Reagan had a saying: If I get 80 percent of what I want, then I should be satisfied.

Lindsey Graham is an 80 percent guy. I hope you believe that because I have tried to show you that I am an 80 percent guy, when you negotiate. There is no negotiation going on here. Nobody is negotiating. We are making it up as we go. The polling numbers are scaring the hell out of everybody and they are in a panic. They are running from one corner of the Capitol to the other trying to cobble votes together to lower the cost of the bill in order to say we solved the problem.

This is not the way to spend $1 trillion. This will come back to bite everybody in this body because when we go to the public and say: We need money to get rid of toxic assets that are clogging up the banking system, they are going to say: Why should I give you a penny more; look what happened with TARP and look what happened in this monstrosity of a bill. And I think, quite frankly, we are going to need to go back.

But this $800 billion, $900 billion process has done little for housing and nothing for banking. So we are destroying the one thing I hoped we could regain: credibility, confidence, and trust.

As to President Obama--nice man, great potential--he really has a big plate of problems. And I wanted to help him. I want him to succeed, where we can find common ground to make America succeed. I am begging him to get involved. Doing news shows and coming to lunch is not what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did to solve the Social Security problem. I know we have to act urgently, but I also know the public is not going to let us do this over and over and over.

We need a timeout--not months; days, hopefully; not weeks--where we can get in a room, and not with 16 people but with the leadership of the House, the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, and the White House, to find a way to spend less and do more because this will not be the end of the spending required to get this economy back on its feet.

There is so much in this bill--not 1 percent. There is $75 billion in this bill earmarked to the States that has no strings attached, and what has that to do with stimulating the economy? I know my State has a budget shortfall, but if we are going to take a bankrupt Congress and borrow money to give to States and take care of their economic problems, that is one politician helping another with their political problems, but it is not creating a job for you and your family.

We are not being smart, we are not working together, we are making this up as we go, and we are losing the good will and the trust of the American people.

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

Mr. GRAHAM. Yes.

Mr. DURBIN. I wish to call to the Senator's attention two amendments that have been adopted, both of them initiated by Republican Senators and both of them now in the bill, the first by Senator Grassley and Senator Menendez in committee that added about $70 billion in cost to the bill--the alternative minimum tax relief. It is something we both support, but it clearly was an effort to engage Republican Senators in changing the bill in a positive way. The second amendment adopted yesterday was by Senator Isakson of Georgia relative to a tax credit for home purchases, and I believe the cost of that is $19 billion. Those two amendments account for $89 billion out of the $900 billion in the bill. So about 10 percent of the bill comes from Republican amendments.

To suggest that we are not open to amendments from the Republican side, I would say to my colleague, I think we are trying. We could do more and we want to do more, but we don't want to lose what we hope President Obama is asking for here--something that will have a substantial and dramatic impact on the economy.

Mr. GRAHAM. I thank the Senator for his comments. If you believe this is a good process, to spend $800 billion, we are on different planets. We are literally making this up as we go. If this is such a good process, why are 16 Senators meeting in a corner trying to figure out how to keep this from stinking up with the public? The idea that the markup lasted 1 hour 40 minutes and one amendment is accepted--is this the way we are going to solve Social Security?

Look at this bill. This bill has to be done by tonight, and we are figuring out as we go what is in it. There is a COBRA provision in this bill. What is COBRA? Well, if you lose your job, there is an ability to maintain health care insurance through a program called COBRA. People are losing their jobs, and they may need COBRA benefits. The bill says we will pay 65 percent of the COBRA premium for anybody who loses their job. That makes sense to some extent, but what if you are the CEO who has been fired from one of these banks and you are worth $20 million? Should we pay 65 percent of your premium? That is not smart.

Mrs. BOXER. Would the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. GRAHAM. Yes.

Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I think it is amazing that the Senator is holding up a bill--holding up a bill. Very theatrical. Did you ever do that when George Bush was President and he sent down a bill twice as big as that? Did the Senator ever do that? Because you can do that. That is theatrical. You can do that.

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I will put my ability to speak my mind to my party up against anybody, including you, Senator. I have been on this floor many times arguing with the past administration about policies I disagreed with. I don't recall you doing that a lot, but I don't question your motives as to why you are doing what you are doing.

I am here today----

Mrs. BOXER. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. GRAHAM. No, it is my time.

I am here today to point out the fact that this is not bipartisanship. This process we are engaging in is not smart. We are not working together. We are about to spend $800 billion or $900 billion and nobody has a clue where we are going to land, and we have to do it by tonight.

So I am telling you right now that if this is the solution to George Bush's problems, the country is going to get worse. If this is the new way of doing business, if this is the change we can all believe in, America's best days are behind her.

I want to meet you in the middle. I want to find a way to spend money beyond cutting taxes that will help people who have lost their jobs. But I don't want to throw a bunch of money into a system that is not going to create a job in the near term, knowing that I have to work with you and the Senator from Illinois to put money into the housing market because people are losing their houses; knowing that I have to come back and ask for more money from the American people to fix the banking system when we have done nothing with banking.

There is plenty of blame to go around here. There is plenty of blame. If you want to look back and say this is all George W. Bush's fault, you can do that. I am choosing not to do that. I am urging this body to sit down in some methodical way, with a sense of urgency, to come up with a product better than this. I am urging a rejection of the mentality ``we won, we write the bill.''

Now, if you want to do it this way, we are going to lose the ability to go back to the American people. The American people understand this bill is not working for them. The process we are creating is not working for them. I want to work with you to work for them. I feel shut out. Maybe it is just me. Maybe I am the problem. But I don't think so. I think people are figuring out pretty quickly that this Congress, the old one and the new one, is making this up as we go, and we are running out of good will. We are running out of capital. We don't need any more news conferences. What we need is getting more than 16 people in a room. We need to slow down, take a timeout, and get it right.

I support the McCain amendment, but I am willing to do more. I am willing to spend more if it makes sense. I am willing to cut taxes more if it makes sense. But I know this: What we are doing in this bill does not make sense and we are not doing it together. We are going to miss a chance to start over again, I say to my good friend from California, to wipe out the past, and to start with a new way of doing business. What we are engaging in, in my opinion, is all of the wrong things of the past. There is nothing new about this bill or this process.

Finally, America wants something more. America deserves something new. This is not it.

I yield the floor.

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