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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009 -- (Senate - February 04, 2009)

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AMENDMENT NO. 179

Mr. VITTER. Before we start voting in a little less than an hour, I encourage all colleagues to look seriously at and to support the Vitter amendment which will be voted on tonight. The Vitter amendment is an attempt to start the important work of cutting out some of the clearly nonstimulative parts of this bill. Fundamentally, it does two things. First, it cuts out $35 billion of spending, which is not stimulative, which is not focused on quick job creation and economic stimulus. It takes that out of the bill. Secondly, it takes out the Davis-Bacon language, which is not part of any reasonable stimulus program and which will, in fact, cost the Government more money by significantly increasing labor costs on many projects. That has been estimated to cost about $17 billion. The American people get it. This is a big debate, an important matter they have been watching carefully. Every day that goes by, they understand ever more clearly that this is a big spending bill with the whole spectrum of traditional big government Washington spending items, a laundry list, and that is not the same animal at all as real focused job creation, economic stimulus.

There is now a plurality of all Americans who think this is a bad bill, not stimulative, and it should be either dramatically changed--not at the margin but at the core--or defeated. Quite frankly, that plurality is growing every hour of every day. They are staggered, the Louisianians I have talked to, by two things. First, the enormous size and cost of the bill. This is a direct cost. There is no argument that we can recoup this as possibly we can recoup some of the TARP money. This is a direct cost. It adds on to the debt and the deficit penny by penny. A trillion dollars is a lot of money. As one of my colleagues said: A trillion dollars or nearly that surely is a terrible thing to waste. This current stimulus bill of almost a trillion dollars is the largest spending bill ever enacted by Congress. It makes the entire New Deal, even adjusted for inflation, look small. If it would be divvied up equally, the $825 billion, it would be like every family in America borrowing $10,520. That is not an analogy drawn from the air. In fact, we are collectively borrowing every cent of this money. Every dollar is another dollar of deficit and debt. We are borrowing that, $10,520 for every American family. If all of our families were asked to equally shoulder that burden, this would be the equivalent of what each average family roughly spends on food, clothing, and health care in a year.

The bill, if it were a country with a GDP, would be the fifteenth largest GDP in the world, right between Australia and Mexico, greater than the gross domestic products of Saudi Arabia and Iran put together. It does cost well over $1 billion for every page it is printed on, $400,000 for every job it hopes or even claims to save or create.

This is about job creation. A lot of us have questions, if any of these goals are going to be met. But let's assume the stated goals are met of saving and creating jobs, $400,000 per job. Of course, I don't think it will ever meet those goals. Altogether, by the analysis of many expert analysis, only 11 percent of this bill has anything to do with recovery or reinvestment. Fact one is the enormous size and cost of this bill which is staggering and frightening to so many Americans. Part two is that Americans get it. It is common sense, and they can tell the difference between a laundry list of spending items, traditional Washington, big government items. Virtually every major item we find in the Federal Government's budget every year, they can tell the difference between that, which this bill is, which the House bill is, and true focused job creation, economic stimulus. They know the difference. They know this is a laundry list of spending.

The Vitter amendment would begin to try to change that. It would not be enough, but it would begin to make a dent in that by cutting $35 billion of spending that is line item spending, nothing particularly focused on job creation, economic development. That spending is in a number of different categories. I invite Members to look at all details of the amendment. It starts with the truly inane. For instance, $20 million for the removal of fish barriers. Let me clarify, small and medium-size fish barriers, in case one was wondering. What the heck is that, to begin with? I would venture to say 95 percent of the Senate has no idea, but we are going to throw $20 million at that issue. How many jobs will that save or create?

That is similar to some of the items in the bill as originally introduced: An enormous amount of money for honeybee insurance; $400 million for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases; $70 million still in the bill for supercomputing related to global climate change models. I am starting with what is the truly ridiculous and inane. From there we go to a lot of other items we can debate, which we may have to do, we may have to consider, but it is not stimulus. It is traditional Washington spending. How about $1 billion for the 2010 census. We just threw $210 million at the new census a few months ago. We are going to throw a billion dollars more. I don't know if that is needed. I don't know if that is a good idea. But I know with absolute certainty, as does everyone in this body, that that is normal spending. That is a normal appropriations matter, not job creation, economic recovery, economic stimulus.

There are so many examples like that. FBI construction. I am a big supporter of the FBI. They may have capital needs. It is not economic stimulus. NIST construction. Most Americans don't know what NIST is, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Maybe they have capital needs. It is not significant job creation and economic stimulus. The Commerce headquarters, we are going to spend $34 million there under this bill. DHS, Department of Homeland Security, consolidation, reorganization, streamlining, saving. That is going to save money; right? Not exactly, $248 million to streamline and consolidate. USDA modernization, let's modernize that Department for $300 million.

Some of these may be good ideas. Some of this spending may be worthy. I don't know, as I stand here today. But I absolutely know--and I daresay everybody in this body knows--it is not job creation. It is not economic stimulus. It is pent-up Washington demand for government spending. Most of what I am talking about right here in our Nation's capital, in the heart of the megabureaucracies. State Department training facility, that is another $75 million; State Department capital investment fund, $524 million. That is almost a billion dollars. How many jobs in the heartland of America will that create? How much impact in terms of real people in the real world in mainstream America will that have in stimulating the economy? My answer is zero. That is the obvious answer on the minds of Americans. The District of Columbia sewer system, $125 million. Are communities around the country getting the same treatment? No. The Economic Development Assistance Program, and another biggie, Amtrak, almost a billion dollars. Again, we deal with Amtrak in the normal appropriations process every year. We have an important debate about whether to continue to subsidize Amtrak. We need to have that debate. We need to get it right. I don't know what the precisely right answer is, but I know it is a normal spending item. It is not job creation. It is not economic stimulus. It is just turning this bill into a whole other year of appropriations inserted somehow magically between 2009 and 2010.

NASA climate change studies, a cool half a billion dollars. It is nice to use round figures like half a billion--neighborhood stabilization, historic preservation, fish and wildlife resource construction, comparative research, the pandemic flu, the smart grid.

People might say: You are not worried about a pandemic flu and the threat that causes to our Nation? I am. That is a serious subject. We need to address it. We have debated it and begun to address it in the normal appropriations process. Maybe we need to do more; I do not know. But I do know one thing. That is average spending and typical spending that is nothing to do with job creation and economic stimulus. Yet this bill is littered line after line after line with all of those items. Many are ridiculous. Some are obscene. Others are debatable as spending items, but they are clearly not job creation and economic stimulus.

So I hope this vote tonight on the Vitter amendment will be the beginning of fundamentally changing this bill so it is no longer simply a laundry list of traditional Washington, big government spending items.

Again, the American people get it. No. 1, they know a trillion dollars is a terrible thing to waste. And, No. 2, they know this bill, as it stands now, just like the House bill, is simply a laundry list of spending items, traditional Washington, big government spending, pent-up demand for spending here in the Nation's Capital. It has been pent up and building for several years. It is not focused, disciplined, economic stimulus, or job creation.

There is a big difference between the two, and the American people, with their common sense, can spot that difference a mile away; and they have because they have been making their voices heard. Scientific polls, several polls--not one here, not one there--several across the board say that a plurality of the American people now say this is a bad idea. This bill should be changed at its core, not at the margins but at its core, or it should be stopped, and we should start over. That is what we need to do.

The speaker immediately before me, the distinguished junior Senator from Missouri, said that not acting, doing nothing, is not an option. She said that with great passion and great focus. I agree. I am a little puzzled about how animated she was about that because I do not know anyone, at least in this body, who thinks or says that inaction is an option. The choice being laid out that it is this bill even after the amendments or nothing is a superficial, false choice. Nobody thinks it is this bill even after amendments or nothing.

We have to act. But this is not the universe of possibilities. We need to change this bill at its core or, if we cannot, we need to say no. We will stay on the subject. We will focus on the economy. We will start over. We will act with real focus and speed. But it is not worth saying yes to a bad bill, particularly at the cost of nearly a trillion dollars.

So I urge all of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to begin that bipartisan path forward toward making this a fundamentally different and worthy bill, and beginning that by adopting the Vitter amendment tonight.

With that, Mr. President, I yield back my time.

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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Under the previous order, there will now be 2 minutes of debate equally divided prior to a vote in relation to amendment No. 179 offered by the Senator from Louisiana, Mr. Vitter.

The Senator from Louisiana is recognized.

Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I would urge all of my colleagues to support this amendment. This would be an important start--not a finish but a start--to trimming down this bill and trimming down pure spending items out of the bill which are not job creation and economic stimulus. The whole savings would be about $35 billion of spending in the bill. That is obviously outlined and delineated in the amendment. In addition, it would omit the Davis-Bacon language which would cost the Government in terms of increased costs of projects another $17 billion.

The American people know the difference between a long laundry list of traditional Washington big government spending items and true, focused job creation and economic development. They know this bill right now is the former, not the latter. Let's begin to change that.

I reserve the remainder of my time.

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