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Public Statements

Stimulus Package Report

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, on Friday the 13th, there is superstition that says we shouldn't be walking under ladders, we should avoid black cats crossing our paths, and certainly you wouldn't purposely break mirrors, would you. But since this is the first significant piece of legislation in this Congress, and under our new President, we ought to take a look in the legislative mirror at what we are doing when we vote here today.

If you look at the developments of this legislation, you will see some patterns. No. 1, House Democrats put together their priorities and drove their priorities through the House of Representatives. They didn't pretend to take any Republican input and they left out 11 of their own Members in the House of Representatives, as we saw from the 11 Democrats who voted against it. In the Senate, Republicans were consulted, and that is a very positive thing, but we were never invited to the negotiating table.

We saw this pattern repeat itself at committee levels and on the floor here and, of course, the most obvious one, at the conference stage. When Republicans offered ideas, generally they were rejected. There were a few exceptions, and the chart behind me will show what those few exceptions were.

The chart deals with one of the improvements--the alternative minimum tax. This is 2006 return data, so it might understate its impact, but you can see that every State would add up to about 20 million for the year 2006. If the 2008 patch were not passed, it would probably add up to 23 million, 24 million middle-class Americans who would be hit if we didn't do something on the alternative minimum tax.

Each one of us can look at our own individual State. But you can see that there are high percentages of middle-class people who would be hit by the alternative minimum tax. That needs to be done.

I heard detracting remarks on whether we ought to do that in a stimulus package. It is not as stimulative as some parts of it. I think I heard some figures from the other side that it might be 2 cents on the dollar--or $1.02 of stimulus as opposed to other places where, as with food stamps, you might get a $3 or $4 return on the investment from a stimulus. But it needs to be there for the simple reason that in each of the last 2 years, we have waited a long period of time to do it, and it has created problems for the IRS to do their form work when you do the alternative minimum tax in November.

I pushed this amendment, an extension of the alternative minimum tax patch. I thank the conferees for retaining it in conference. Many in the Democratic leadership--most particularly the senior Senator from Illinois--argued that I should support the package based upon that amendment alone. I agree with my friend from Illinois that the package was improved with that amendment. I also point out that all these families in his State--and you can look at Illinois, where there is a fabulous number of middle-income taxpayers, 909,000 right now, before this bill is signed by the President--would be obligated to pay that alternative minimum tax. In my State of Iowa, it is a large number; not quite that big.

We need to point out that all the families from his State and families from my State will get a tax cut averaging $2,300 due to the amendment. We on this side pushed for that.

I do not get what the senior Senator from Illinois was saying. I only heard him say it last night because I was on the floor at that particular time. I don't get why he doesn't accept the improvements based on merits alone and not whether it has anything to do with who supports this bill or who does not. Why he feels the need to continue to criticize me by name for improving the bill is beyond my comprehension.

Now, instead of repeatedly criticizing me by name, I hope the senior Senator from Illinois would listen to what I have to say and reflect on it. We do not need to be partisan, cutout cartoon characters. We can actually engage in some real debate. In that vein, many on my side could probably support the conference agreement before us, with more improvements such as the one the senior Senator from Illinois has criticized me for offering, the alternative minimum tax. President Obama could get the 80 votes he wanted and still have a stimulus bill.

But on this side we will supply those additional votes, maybe pushing the total to 80, only if we believe the bill as a whole would improve the economy. To that end, House and Senate Republicans offered amendments in committee and on the floor to improve this bill the following ways. I have about four examples.

No. 1: to tie the spending of this bill to the period in which the economy is sagging. That was Senator McCain's trigger amendment. If Senator McCain had prevailed, taxpayers would know their tax dollars would be protected once the economy recovered. It was a good, fiscally responsible idea. It was rejected largely along party-line votes.

No. 2 example: to ensure that the huge amount of State aid money, almost $87 billion for Medicaid alone, was used by the States to prevent tax increases or cuts in important services. We had amendments to do that. The amendments required States to maintain their efforts on keeping taxes low and not cutting services. That was rejected largely along party lines.

Another example was to build on the individual tax relief in the package. On this side, we offered amendments to expand the relief in amount and by the number of taxpayers. Those amendments also were largely rejected along party lines.

The last example: we tried to divert some of the over $1 trillion in this bill--that is $1 trillion when interest on this debt is included--to home mortgages and housing problems. We offered amendments to do that. Senator Isakson prevailed with his amendment to provide a robust tax credit for home purchases. How was that amendment received in the conference committee? The answer is it was dumped and new social spending, the priority of a lot of House Democrats, was added back.

These are just a few examples. I would like to remind my colleagues that we would cut back the cost of the bill. Ask Senator McCain. I am sure he will explain, in detail, the large amounts of money that could be saved.

The true test is in the press reports. They note the conference report is not too far off from the basic plans laid out by the Democratic leadership. The bottom line is the basic outlines of the plan did not move all that much between what was originally passed in the House, originally passed in the Senate, and what comes out of conference. It goes back to my basic point--to be bipartisan you have to have a real offer to negotiate and a sincere objective to entertain each other's point of view. There is no better evidence of that kind of pattern than the record Senator Baucus and I have established in the committee, the Finance Committee, during the years I chaired the committee and during the years he has chaired the committee.

I yield the floor.


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