Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today blasted the latest version of the misnamed stimulus package before Congress, saying the $790 billion bill is not an improvement over earlier versions.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Hatch said the American people would be better served if Congress took the time to draft a bipartisan bill, one that included input from Republicans and had less wasteful spending and more tax relief.
"With the amount of money spent in this bill, you could give every man, woman, and child in America $4,000," Hatch said. "I think Utahns and all Americans would put $1.2 trillion to better use than what this bill does."
The $1.2 trillion is the total cost of the bill when interest is included.
Hatch added, "The great American poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been!'
"While those words were written more than a century ago, they certainly can be applied now to Congress. Faced with a serious recession, we need to do our very best to get the economy moving again. Instead, it looks like this body will settle for a partisan bill that could well fail to do the job our nation requires," Hatch continued.
"We should do better. We could do much better. The American people need us to do better. And if this legislation passes, many of us may one day shake our heads at an opportunity lost and wonder aloud about what might have been."
Sen. Hatch's complete remarks on the Senate floor follow:
Mr. President, I rise today to express my opposition to the conference report accompanying the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more commonly known as the stimulus package.
When I spoke on the floor last week about my disappointments in the Senate version of the stimulus bill, I did not think the bill would get much worse in conference. In fact, I harbored some hope that it would improve. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
What we have seen emerge from the conference weakens the stronger provisions of the Senate bill and worsens the less-effective provisions.
Many Utahns have called and written me to express their concerns with this stimulus package and with the process by which it has been legislated. They are rightly worried about the consequences of an economic stimulus package that, with interest, will cost taxpayers well over a trillion dollars. And they are particularly worried that it will be ineffective in saving or creating jobs.
Last year, President Obama's campaign was based upon "Hope, Not Fear" - that is, as Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post points out, he needs fear to help him pass a bill. The pressure is on the Majority to convince the American people that this is the right economic package. On Tuesday, President Obama spoke to the American people not about the audacity of hope, but rather to instill fear into Americans.
"A failure to act will only deepen the crisis as well as the pain of Americans.
"The federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy."
While I do not disagree with these statements, it is wrong to use fear to force the completion of an unbalanced, largely partisan package that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will create at most 1.9 million jobs by the end of 2011 and leave us with lower GDP in ten years than if we do nothing at all.
Mr. President, it is clear we are in an economic recession and that action is needed to stimulate the government. I think every one of our colleagues agrees with this.
What troubles me is the misperception about why most Republican are opposed to this bill. The president and many of our Democratic colleagues have unfairly implied that Republicans prefer to do nothing. This is absolutely not true. Yes, we are opposed to this bill, but we are not opposed to stimulating the economy. We simply want to do it in the most effective and least wasteful way as possible.
We do not want to see us make a trillion dollar mistake.
Yet, we Republicans were shut out of negotiating the final conference report, which is something President Obama vowed to the American people that he would change. According to the President Obama's presidential campaign website, change.gov, he vowed to "end the practice of writing legislation behind closed doors"
Specifically, Obama said he would: "Work to reform congressional rules to require all legislative sessions, including committee mark-ups and conference committees, to be conducted in public."
I believe that this bill can be much more effective, and so does President Obama himself. At his Tuesday press conference, he admitted as much when he said, "I cannot tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope."
That concerns me. If we plan to spend an amount equal to the 15th largest economy in the world, we ought to make sure that stimulus plan is drafted in the most effective way possible. For example, many economists say that the "Make Work Pay" tax credit provision in the plan, which will give workers roughly $15 more a week in each paycheck, will largely be ineffective in stimulating the economy.
My objection to this bill is not based on the fact that it includes spending; it is because it lacks and effective balance of spending and tax relief.
If you look closely at the bill, you will see that a much of what the majority lists as tax relief is actually spending. In other words, those who do not pay income taxes, as well as state and local governments, are receiving money through the tax code. How can there be tax relief to those who do not pay taxes? Tax relief from what? I am not saying those who do not pay income taxes should not benefit from this stimulus package. I am saying that if you are going to give money to people who do not pay taxes, call it what it is - spending.
In fact, when one adds up all of the provisions in the bill, more than 70 percent is spending and less than 30 percent is real tax relief. Where is the balance?
Even worse, only one-half of one percent of this bill is devoted to tax relief to help struggling businesses keep their doors open. That is pathetic.
Moreover, the bill fails to adequately address the housing crisis. Unfortunately, the $15,000 tax credit for homebuyers, which was one of the few bipartisan amendments accepted into the Senate bill, has now been watered down drastically. So has the other major bipartisan amendment added on the Senate floor - the deduction for interest on a new auto loan.
And, one of the few provisions to help struggling companies keep their doors open - the expanded period for carrying back net-operating losses - has been erased from the conference report, except for small businesses. I have some news for my Democratic colleagues: Small businesses are not the only companies that are laying off workers.
Allowing companies to get quick refunds of taxes previously paid was one of the few smart and efficient provisions in the Senate bill designed to directly save jobs. And now that has been whittled down to a mere shadow of what it was.
I worry my friends on the other side of the aisle are looking through rose-colored glasses - spectacles tinted by spending priorities such as expanding government programs, which they hope will stimulate the economy.
They are trying to convince America that spending millions on government vehicles will somehow stimulate the economy. They refuse to listen to even the president's chair of economic advisors, Christina Romer, who in a study determined that every dollar of government spending increases the Gross Domestic Product by $1.40, while every dollar of tax relief increases the Gross Domestic Product by $3.
The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated the Senate version of this so-called "stimulus package" would only save or create between 600,000 and 1.9 million jobs by the end of 2011. At a cost of $1.2 trillion, including interest, the cost to the taxpayer for each job saved or created under the plan is at least $632,000 and as much as $2 million (SEE POSTER).
Now that the Senate bill has been scaled back significantly, this job-creation estimate is almost sure to go down significantly. We can do better than this, Mr. President. This is not good enough for government work.
With the amount of money spent in this bill, you could give every man, woman, and child in America $4,000. I think Utahns and all Americans would put $1.2 trillion to better use than what this bill does.
A large share of this stimulus bill will go to states to implement temporary programs. When that funding runs out, what do we tell all of those employees that were hired and now have to be let go? Will we say, "Sorry, this was just a temporary job?"
Who are they kidding? This makes about as much sense as denying an undefeated football team the chance to play in the national championship game.
The majority knows that the American people want to see more tax relief in this stimulus bill. A February 9 poll conducted by the Rasmussen Report found that 62 percent of U.S. voters want the plan to include more tax cuts and less government spending. It appears as if the more time Americans have to review this bill, the less they like it.
While time is of the essence, we cannot afford to get this wrong. The stakes are too high. Yet, President Obama has chosen to break the theme of his presidential campaign and use fear to hurriedly pass this flawed economic stimulus package.
Mr. President, we Republicans realize the severity of this economic situation. We recognize the need to stimulate the economy with a balanced stimulus package that has an appropriate mix of spending and real tax relief. We want to create jobs and spur economic growth. But haste makes waste, and like many of my constituents, I believe our efforts are about to be wasted - squandered on a stimulus bill that will stimulate more criticism and feelings of futility than the economy.
The great American poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"
While those words were written more than a century ago, they certainly can be applied now to Congress. Faced with a serious recession, we need to do our very best to get the economy moving again. Instead, it looks like this body will settle for a partisan bill that could well fail to do the job our nation requires
We should do better. We could do much better. The American people need us to do better. And if this legislation passes, many of us may one day shake our heads at an opportunity lost and wonder aloud about what might have been.