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Public Statements

American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, we are about to vote at 5:30. Under Senate rules, we need 60 votes to bring closure to a bill, to basically end debate, move on with any amendments that are left hanging, and bring the debate to an end. I hope people were listening to my colleague from Tennessee. I thought he made a very good argument that we are bringing to close a debate that really never began.

I don't remember debating doubling the size of the Education Department budget. I do know that education spending in Washington has grown significantly under the Bush years. Maybe there is room for it to grow even more. But I thought we were trying to create jobs to get our economy going. I am quite confident that many of the programs they are trying to expand in the Education Department have more to do with a particular agenda of a few people than creating jobs. The health care issue is enormous. Providing broadband service to rural America is very important. There is $9 billion in this bill to do that. But the question is, Does that money create a job in the near term?

The reason I believe we need a stimulus package is because I don't think the private sector has the ability to jump-start the economy because they can't borrow money. There are not many businesses out there that have the ability right now to expand.

One thing we could do in Washington to help the economy is cut people's taxes so that businesses would have more money to expand and hire new people; cut individual taxes so people would have more money to meet the needs and manage the budget and make their house payments; and infuse into the economy some spending, shovel-ready projects. You are going to need a shovel when this bill passes, not to build anything, just to get the money out the door.

There is $200 million in oversight; $200 million is going to be spent just to try to figure out where the money went. This is an incredible amount of money being spent, $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years with interest, and we have spent 4 days on it in the Senate.

The House started this process, and they couldn't pick up one Republican vote. I can assure you, there are Republicans in the House and Senate who really do believe we need to cut taxes and spend money to jump-start the economy. They lost 11 Democrats in the House.

This bill started poorly and has gotten worse. It comes to the Senate in the compromise, and I applaud Members for trying to reach a compromise. The bill is $7 billion more in the Senate than it was in the House. I wouldn't want these people to buy me a car. That is not exactly what I had in mind when it came to compromise.

Every Republican voted for a bill--I think it was $415 billion--to cut taxes, money for infrastructure spending, money to extend unemployment benefits and food stamps, and other programs to help people who have lost their jobs. Compromise is not going from $415 to $7 billion more than the House bill. To those who said this is the best deal we could get, I couldn't disagree more. This is the best deal you could get with two or three people.

But I do believe the American people have seen through this bill, and they don't like it. They don't know exactly what to do. That is probably true of many of us in Congress. This is something unusual. But they know this process is not what they had in mind when it came to change. They know this bill stinks.

This bill was written by appropriators, not by economists. The focus of this bill--to create jobs in the near term--has been replaced by what I consider basically an orgy of spending. People have piled onto this bill policy changes that were never debated. We made up numbers when it comes to education and health care without really any vetting. The markup in the Senate, where the bill was drafted, lasted an hour and 40 minutes. We have had 2 or 3 days on the floor to talk about the bill. It has been helpful. But at the end of the day, we are bringing closure to a bill that spends $1.2 trillion that will transfer to the next generation of young Americans a debt on top of what they already owe, and we are digging a hole for the next generation of Americans I don't think they will be able to get out of. Shame on us.

If it creates 4 million jobs, who knows, that is still $275,000 per job. If it is 1.3 million, that is almost $600,000 per job. What was intended to be a good thing has turned out to be the old way of doing business. Less than 20 percent of the money gets into the economy within the first year. I argue, if you can't get the money into the economy within a year or 18 months, we should not be doing it.

The sad thing is that the fundamental problem with the economy is unaddressed; that is, housing, what got us into this mess, a collapse of the housing industry. You can't borrow money at banks. Why? Banks have a hard time lending money because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other organizations pushed home loans to people who couldn't afford to pay the loans. They took these questionable mortgages and repackaged them 1,000 times over, calling them different things such as mortgage-backed securities, and it spread throughout the entire world. Now banks own these troubled assets. And the first round of TARP that was supposed to get some of these assets off the book--we just gave the money to banks to keep them from folding.

We have yet to address the housing problem and the banking problem. We are going to find out maybe tomorrow what additional money would be required to fix those two aspects of the economy. There is $310 billion left in the TARP fund. It will not cover the needs of the banking or housing industries. The public will be asked to give more money.

My point is simple: Every dollar that is unfocused and wasted in the stimulus could be spent on helping people stay in their homes and helping banks lend money. That is the way I look at it. There is so much in this bill that may be worthy but doesn't create a job and could be transferred to the housing and banking problems and not just spent.

The President called this a spending bill. I thought it was a bill to create jobs. We have a way to spend money. It is called the appropriations process. We came together early on after the election to try to find a new way of doing business. We, most of us--I think there are 20 Republicans--would sign up for a bill that would cut taxes and spend money in a focused way. The bill we have before us cuts taxes and spends a lot of money, and neither one of them is focused.

The public will be asked again to put more of their money on the table--and it is all borrowed from their children--to deal with the fundamentals of the economy, housing and banking, that are pretty much unaddressed. It is disappointing for me that we are bringing to close a debate that really never happened.

To the Senator from Tennessee, he has a great reputation of being somebody who listens and is pretty easy to get along with. I think I have a reputation of reaching across the aisle, sometimes to my own political detriment. It is in my nature to try to find common ground on big problems that no one party can solve. I argue that the economic crisis we are in is not going to be solved by one group of people. It is going to be solved by America working together.

The message from the election that I thought was received by most Americans is that you want us to be smarter and you want us to work together.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 1 minute remaining.

Mr. GRAHAM. The public was hopeful that the Congress and the new President would be smarter and we would work together. I think we have failed. I don't believe this bill is smart at all. It certainly wasn't a work product that came from working together.

Where do we go from here? We go to get more of the public money to fix housing and banking. We wasted a lot of their money. We cannot spend enough money through a stimulus package to save this economy unless we deal with banking and housing. We have thrown a lot of good money after bad. I apologize, and I am sorry that we can't do better. I now know why the Congress is in such low esteem.

I am disappointed in this new President. Like everyone else, I want him to do well because our country needs to do well. But he has missed a great opportunity.


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