Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted no today on the Democrats' $1.2 trillion misnamed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
"This bill does not pass the smell test," Hatch said after voting against the $790 billion ($1.2 trillion when interest is accounted for) spending package. "It reeks of rank partisanship, underhanded dealing and reckless spending. It was drafted by Democrats in the dead of night, without any input from Republicans, and should never see the light of day. It is a recipe for short-term gain and long-term pain."
Just as Republicans were shut out of the original House version of the stimulus bill, Hatch noted, they were also excluded by Democrats from any meaningful participation in the final conference version of the legislation.
"When President Obama promised during his campaign to end the practice of crafting bills behind closed doors, Majority leaders in Congress apparently weren't listening," Hatch said. "As a result, the nation will likely be stuck with a partisan potpourri of spending that won't deliver on what is being promised and will bury American taxpayers under an avalanche of debt."
Democrats said the stimulus would be "temporary, targeted and timely." Hatch, however, noted the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has determined the bill (H.R.1) will boost the nation's GDP in the short term, but actually serve as a net drag on economic growth and wages by 2014.
Hatch said the CBO has indicated tax cuts are the best way to stimulate the economy. But instead of the 40 percent in tax cuts that President Obama wanted in the bill, H.R. 1 delivers a paltry 18 percent.
"What happened to the tax cuts for businesses?" Hatch asked. "They have been slashed by 66 percent from the original House bill. That's money that could have helped more businesses stay afloat and avoid employee layoffs. It's money that businesses could use to expand U.S. exports and create jobs. Instead, this bill contains $112 billion for the government to cut checks to pay people who don't pay taxes. This bill is less about stimulus than it is about social engineering."
As an example, Hatch pointed to a provision in the bill aimed at weakening the Personal Responsibility and Work Act that former President Clinton signed into law in 1997. This sweeping welfare reform act created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program that dramatically dropped welfare caseloads by more than 50 percent in 1997 and has enjoyed remarkable success ever since.
"In an insidious attempt to reverse the gains of this act," Hatch said, "Democrats have inserted a provision in the bill to turn back the clock to when welfare was an open-ended entitlement. Instead of giving Americans a hand up to self-sufficiency, they want to hook the people on government handouts to promote welfare dependency and reliance on Democrat Party largesse."
The TANF provision in the stimulus creates a $3 billion contingency fund for assistance to states' "needy family programs" in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The money would be applied to increased caseloads, non-recurring short-term expenditures and subsidized employment. Hatch, however, noted the existing TANF program already has a contingency fund that provides aid to states undergoing economic downturns.
"Why waste $3 billion in the stimulus package to duplicate what TANF already provides?" Hatch asked. "This move reverts back to the pre-1997 days when states were rewarded for increases in caseloads. It essentially does away with any incentive to move people from welfare to work. And let's be honest about it: This underhanded funding is more about expanding big government and the Democrats' power base than it is about helping hardworking Americans get back on their feet."
Hatch called on Democrats to stop the subterfuge and political games.
"Instead of furtive closed-door attempts to foist reckless spending on an unsuspecting public, Democrats should have invited Republicans to participate so we could work together in the light of day to craft a stimulus bill that would jumpstart the economy and put Americans back to work," Hatch said.