GOP Rips Stimulus Package

Posted January 15, 2009 at 2:27pm

House Democratic leaders touted their $825 billion stimulus proposal Thursday as a job-saving measure that would bolster cash-strapped communities and invest in energy, education and tax relief, but it received an instant thumbs-down from GOP leaders.

“I just took a moment to look over the draft from [Appropriations] Chairman [David] Obey and the outline by [Ways and Means] Chairman [Charlie] Rangel … oh my God,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) during a press conference. “My notes here say that I’m disappointed. I just can’t tell you how shocked I am at what we’re seeing.”

Boehner blasted the Democratic plan, saying that it called for “half a trillion dollars in questionable new spending” and criticized the majority for not seeking Republican input.

“Six billion dollars going to community action agencies to home weatherization — I’m not sure they have the capacity to do that,” he said. “This is not the kind of economic recovery plan that will create jobs and preserve jobs.”

Republicans were already grumbling about being left out of the process in drafting the package.

“There has been no GOP input in this draft,” said Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman. “The first we saw of this policy was when it was e-mailed around this morning.”

But a Democratic aide said Republicans should not be shocked. Obey briefed Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) earlier this week and asked for his input but received none, the aide said.

But Lewis ripped the package right out of the gate. “This legislation appears to blanket government programs in spending with little thought toward real economic results, job creation, or respect for the taxpayer,” he said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) outlined the package Thursday morning and said it would be marked up in committees next week, fulfilling a request by Republicans.

The plan includes $550 billion in new spending and $275 billion in tax cuts, with major investments in roads, education, energy and health care, as well as aid to struggling states and tax relief of up to $500 per worker.

State and local governments are the biggest winners in the package, with more than $300 billion flowing to them through education and health care programs and transportation systems.

Clean energy initiatives also will get a massive infusion of cash, along with money for construction of science facilities and broadband Internet.

The unemployed will enjoy extended benefits throughout 2009 in the areas of health care and food stamps.

Pelosi said the plan was developed in consultation with the incoming Obama administration, but she stressed that the package is a House proposal.

“This is the first step in the process,” she said.

Among items that didn’t make it into the measure is another patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax, which would have either swollen the proposal’s size or crowded out other tax cuts.

Obey warned that the new proposal may not be enough to stabilize the economy. “I would not be surprised to see us go further on some of these programs down the line.”

Obey said people should not view the package “as a salvation for the economy.” A more fitting description, he said, is “the largest effort by any legislative body on the planet to try to take government action to prevent economic catastrophe.”

Democrats are aiming to mark up the bill in the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, and are hoping to bring it to the floor on Jan. 28.

From there, the Senate can take up the package the following week while the House passes an omnibus spending bill that includes leftover appropriations bills from 2008. Congress will then have one final week to resolve the stimulus package and the omnibus bill before heading into the Presidents Day recess on Feb. 13, Obey said.

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.