McConnell: ‘We need to be straight with the American people’
‘The President was right to call for a stimulus, but this bill misses the mark. It’s full of waste. We have no assurance it will create jobs or revive the economy’
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday:
“Over the past several months, a series of frightening economic events have left many Americans without work and many more wondering when the bad news will end. A problem that began in the housing sector spread to the financial sector, triggering even more problems in industries that rely on credit. Major U.S. companies that many Americans never thought were vulnerable have laid off thousands of workers, some for the first time ever. Last month alone, 600,000 Americans lost jobs.
“This was the situation when President Obama took office late last month. And, to his credit, our new President has committed himself to working with Congress to fix the economy, a top priority for both parties. A month before Inauguration Day, the President told us that bold legislative action would be needed. He also said repeatedly that he’d be careful in spending the taxpayers’ money.
“The American people were ready to support an economic plan that would work and that wouldn’t spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. So were Republicans in Congress.
“What many of us did not expect, however, was that President Obama wouldn’t be the author of that plan. In an odd turn of events, the bold economic plan that President Obama called for ended up being written by some of the longest-serving Democrats in the House of Representatives — and it showed. Tasked with writing a stimulus bill that was timely, targeted, and temporary, Democrats in the House produced an enormous spending bill that was none of the above.
“Criticism of the House bill was fierce, so many of us expected that Democrats in the Senate would draft a much better bill. Unfortunately, those hopes turned out to be unfounded. Not only was the Senate bill more expensive than the House bill, it repeated the same mistakes: hundreds of billions in permanent government expansion, wasteful projects that would have minimal or no impact on job creation, and a staggering $1.2 trillion price tag when interest costs are added.
“As the Senate version was taking shape, a number of Senators expressed serious concerns. One senator said he was, ‘very committed to making sure that we get it scrubbed clean of many of these programs.’ Another said that, ‘If there’s wasteful of silly spending, or spending that does not, you know, create, jobs, that sort of stuff needs to be pruned out.’ Another senator said, ‘We are seeking not to let this thing get loaded up with all these other pet projects and pet programs.’ Another said, ‘…it needs some work. It needs some surgery.’ And those were just the Democrats.
“Concerns were so widespread that President Obama called a meeting at the White House with Congressional leaders. After the meeting, many of us thought Senate Democrats would rethink their plan. They didn’t. They dug in deeper. Republicans tried repeatedly to cut out the waste and bring down the total cost of the bill, and to refocus on the central problem of the housing market. Democrats resisted. They rejected an amendment that would have cut more than $25 billion in wasteful spending from the bill. They rejected an amendment that would have turned off spending on newly created programs — rather than let them live in perpetuity. They rejected an amendment that would have turned off spending once the economy recovers.
“In the end, Senate Democrats produced a bill that fell so far short that a compromise emerged. But the compromise itself wasn’t much better than the original House or Senate bills. Much of the spending was either permanent or unfocused. And many of the wasteful or non-stimulative projects that raised concerns in the earlier versions remained: hundreds of millions for government cars and government golf carts; $200 million to consolidate the Department of Homeland Security offices in Washington; $100 million for grants to small shipyards; nearly $1 billion to spruce up parks.
“In every version of the stimulus we’ve seen, wasteful spending has attracted the most attention. But even more worrisome to many is the permanent expansion of government programs. One estimate puts the cost of this expansion at nearly $1 trillion over the next decade.
“Even the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which counts Obama economic advisor Paul Volcker and former Clinton Budget Director Alice Rivlin as directors, has been highly critical of this aspect of the bill. Last week, CRFB President Maya MacGuineas pointed out that many of the bill’s spending projects squander resources. But even more troubling, she said, are the programs that aim to permanently expand government. As MacGuineas put it, ‘extending our borrowing beyond the economic downturn will make our already-dismal fiscal picture far, far worse.’
“Still, some Democrats continue to defend the bill. Asked about its apparent lack of focus, one veteran Democratic Congressman said, ‘So what.’ One Senate Democrat called $16.4 billion in the bill ‘a trifle.’ Another Democrat senator said that by inserting a $3 billion project of his own, he was just ‘fiddling at the edges.’ Another said that $50 billion was ‘not going to make the difference to the economy.’ Most people cringe at a 50 cent increase in the cost of bread. Senate Democrats shrug at taking $16 billion from the taxpayers for a project they can’t even assure us will work. In an economic downturn, we should care more about how we spend their tax dollars — not less.
“America is in the midst of a serious economic crisis. At some point, however, we will all have to face an even larger crisis: We have a $1.2 trillion deficit. The national debt is approaching $11 trillion. Soon we’ll be voting on an Omnibus Appropriations bill that will cost another $400 billion. This week, Secretary Geithner is expected to propose another round of bank bailouts that could cost up to $2 trillion. Including interest, the bill before us will cost $1.2 trillion.
“Americans are asking themselves ‘Where does it end?’ They want to know how we’re going to pay for all this. They’re worried. And they should be worried about a bill so big that it’s equivalent to spending more than $1 million dollars a day for more than three thousand years. This is an enormous amount of money.
“The President was right to call for a stimulus, but this bill misses the mark. It’s full of waste. We have no assurance it will create jobs or revive the economy. The only thing we know for sure is that it increases our debt and locks in bigger and bigger interest payments every year. In short, we’re taking an enormous risk with other people’s money. On behalf of taxpayers, I won’t take that risk.
“The Administration is clearly worried about the risks of spending this much money. Over the weekend, the Treasury Secretary decided to postpone an announcement on the use of the remaining TARP money and an entity that would absorb toxic assets from troubled banks.
“Yesterday, the Democrat Majority in the House postponed a leftover appropriations bill from last year that would bring 2009 spending to more than $1 trillion for the first time ever. It may seem overwhelming to do all of this at the same time. But, in my view, we need to lay all of this spending on the table at once, rather than trickle it out in an effort to hide the true costs.
“We need to be straight with the American people.
“Last year, the national debt was about $10 trillion. The interest payments on that debt totaled about $450 billion. At the same rate of interest, the debt we’re about to take on from this stimulus, the bad bank legislation, and the appropriations bill could cost an additional $250 billion per year.
“That’s about $700 billion next year in interest payments on the debt alone — more than we spent last year on defense, military construction, Veterans hospitals, and Homeland Security combined — $700 billion with nothing to show for it, $700 billion just to keep the creditors from knocking on our door. The interest costs on the Stimulus Bill alone will cost us $95 million a day, every day, for the next 10 years. Most people know what it’s like to charge a little more on the credit card than you should. They should know that their government is about to charge a lot more on the nation’s credit than it can afford — and that it’s counting on the taxpayers to cover the cost.
“This is serious money, all of it borrowed, and all of it spent on the hope that it will help lift the economy.
“All of us want to strengthen the economy and create and save jobs. Republicans believe the best way to do it is to first fix the problem, which is housing. Then we need to let people keep more of what they earn. Throughout this process, Republicans have been guided by the belief that the desire to ‘just do something’ shouldn’t be an excuse to waste tax dollars. That’s why we proposed a plan that was more focused on the problem and which didn’t waste money — in short, a plan that was timely, targeted, and temporary. Sadly the bill before us is none of these things, despite the good intent of the President. I will vote against it, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.