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Public Statements

American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SPECTER. Madam President, I begin with the enormously serious economic problems facing the United States: an unemployment rate which is rising, 4,100,000 jobs lost last year, thousands of people losing their jobs every day; recognizing the very heavy psychological factor which is at work, cited for the destruction of consumer confidence; and the eyes and the ears of the world are on the United States, on the U.S. Government, and on the Senate tonight to see whether we will be able to respond to the magnitude of the problem.

The psychological impact, if we were to reject some activist approach, I think would be devastating, not only on Wall Street and on Main Street but all across the face of the globe.

Based on the telephone calls which I have gotten in my office, this is a very unpopular vote. Perhaps the tide will turn. But the calls are mounting from one end of the political spectrum saying there are too many expenditures, and the calls are mounting on the other end of the political spectrum saying there is not enough money being spent on the proposal which we are advancing tonight.

Perhaps the tide will turn on reflection and an analysis of the program which we are setting forth. Perhaps the tide will turn as exemplified by the letter issued today from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, principal spokesman for corporate America and principal spokesman for conservative America.

The Chamber says this:

Therefore, this legislation, because the economy continues to deteriorate, the Chamber is for the bill because it supports pro-growth tax initiatives. The Chamber is for the bill because it applauds the inclusion of tax relief. The Chamber is for the bill because many of the spending-side provisions of the legislation will also provide stimulus to get Americans back to work focusing on infrastructure spending for roads, rails, public transportation, aviation, inland waterways and ports.

I have already noted certain grave concerns which I have and one is the rush to judgment, which we are a part, and perhaps a necessary part. When President Obama came to speak to the Republican Caucus recently, when my turn came to ask a question, I said: Why are you wedded to February 13? That is too fast to digest a bill of this magnitude.

I said we had passed a $700 billion bailout bill, TARP, where we did not know what was in the bill. We did not have the regular order of hearings, questions, and cross-examination or committee work on the markup line by line with the committee report. We did not even have floor debate.

We made a lot of mistakes. They were compounded by the administration carrying it out. I voted against the release of the second $350 billion. I said: Mr. President, let's not do it again. There is nothing magical about February 13 before we start the week of recess for Presidents Day.

The President responded, emphasizing the severe nature of the problem, and not telling us all, which he has told us privately, about the serious problems which he sees or his advisers see for any delay at all. So we are responding to his timetable. I do not like it, but I am responding to it.

There are other aspects of this bill which give me heartburn. There is a lot in this bill which ought to be part of the regular appropriations process. I served for 10 years as chairman of the subcommittee funding the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education. I have fought hard for many of the items that are in this bill but ought not to be in this bill. They ought to be part of the regular appropriations process where we set an overall budget and we fight them out on priorities.

But they are here because the administration and the bill proposed by the committee has seen fit to include them. There are many who are criticizing the amendment which we are offering here this evening. They say there are cuts in important programs. Well, that is wrong. There are not cuts in important programs. If this bill is not passed, there will not be any appropriations. So you start from zero on Head Start, and you start from zero on child development.

It is true we have made some reductions in the size of the appropriations, but that is not a cut. For example, on childcare, the committee bill has $2 billion, and we have seen fit to put $2 billion in. Well, if we do not have 60 votes, childcare does not get any additional sum. My preference would be to handle it in regular order.

Head Start is in the committee bill for $2.1 billion. It is going to have $1.05 billion.

Title I in the committee report has $13 billion and will retain $12.4 billion. Special education has $13.5 billion, and we left it all in because that is a Federal mandate. It is different.

The National Institutes of Health has $10 billion, including the Senate amendment. This is an item that has special significance to Senator Harkin and myself as our lead in raising NIH funding since 1994 from $10 billion to the present number of approximately $30 billion. NIH will produce 70,000 jobs, according to the head of the National Institutes of Health.

Now, what have we accomplished in the amendment which is being offered now? This bill, in coming to the floor, and these figures are pretty close. They are hard to be exact. The bill starts with $885 billion. There were add-ons on the floor of $53 billion. The bill, as it is being reported is $780 billion. So we have reduced the expenditures by $105 billion. That is a lot of money.

That is something which makes everybody angry. But that is a position you are in if you are a Senator. People are unhappy because they did not get the full amount for the committee report, although absent this bill they would get zero additional. People are unhappy on spending too much money, but it is imperative, as I see it, that we do something very substantial.

There are reasons to argue that this is a bad bill. I am not saying it is a bad bill, I am saying there are reasons to argue it is a bad bill. But I do not believe there is any doubt the economy would be enormously worse off without it. That is the kind of a choice we have to make.

Personally, I would prefer not to be on the edge of the pin, as so frequently is the case in this body. But I do believe we have to act, and I believe that under all the circumstances, this is the best we can do and we ought to do it.

I reserve the remainder of my time.


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