On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, H.R. 1, Congress’s latest economic stimulus package. That bill passed 244-188; 11 Democrats broke ranks, while all of the voting Republicans voted against it. First, I would like to commend the 11 Democrats who voted against the $819 billion “stimulus” bill. This bill is an atrocity to the Congressional system of appropriations. Instead of focusing on true STIMULUS (after all, it is an “economic STIMULUS package”), the Democrats in the House packed the bill with billions of dollars of un-stimulating spending. For those of you who want to read the sources, here’s the version of the bill as it was introduced (it has been slightly changed, but not too much), here’s the summary from the House Appropriations Committee, and here’s the cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. And here’s the link to the roll call vote, Roll number 46.
Let’s take a look at the following, keeping in mind that this is just a fraction of the spending packed in the 647-page bill (which I unfortunately didn’t have the time to quite get through, although I skimmed most of it): $650,000,000 for digital TV converters, $400,000,000 for habitat restoration, $250,000,000 for NASA climate research, $600,000,000 for the government to lease plug-in and alternative-fuel vehicles, $500,000,000 for airport security, $150,000,000 for bridge removal by the Coast Guard, $1,700,000,000 for National Parks Service maintenance, $200,000,000 to clean up leaking underground sewage storage tanks, $850,000,000 for wildland fire management, $150,000,000 for maintenance at the Smithsonian Institution, and $50,000,000 for the National Cemetery Administration to make cemetery repairs. And this is all after some apportionments were taken out. The Republicans urged Democrats to take out some of the unnecessary spending, such as making funds available for “family planning” and contraceptives, as well as $200,000,000 to revitalize and re-sod the National Mall, but I think those were the only 2 spending things that were cut out of the bill. Either way, the point is – there’s a heck of a lot of spending.
Now, I am not saying that the expenditures in this bill are unimportant. Clearly bridge removal, airport security, wildland fire management, etc. are very important; however, Congress has an apportionment process for a reason. This bill takes the traditional apportionment process and throws it out the window, and that is absolutely unacceptable! The Democrats essentially drafted this bill telling THEIR caucus members, “If you want money apportioned for something, stick it in this ‘stimulus package’ and we’ll get it passed no questions asked,” and that’s exactly what happened. Keep in mind, a normal apportionment bill is debated for days, but here the House Democrats crammed what would have been hundreds of apportionment bills into one bill and debated it on the floor for ONLY THREE DAYS. That’s right folks – this was introduced on January 26, and it was passed on January 28. That is both unacceptable and just plain DANGEROUS. Half of the Representatives don’t even know what all is in the bill!
If Congress wants to spend money, that is perfectly fine, but they need to do it through the proper channels of apportionment, not by hijacking the taxpayers’ wallets under the guise of an “economic stimulus package.”
So where were the Republicans in all of this? I’ll tell you. They were left out until the very end. Not ONE Republican had any real input while this bill was drafted. Sure, Obama met with Republicans and “took their input,” but no Republican ever put a pen anywhere near this bill as it was being written. The only input they had was on the floor of the House during debate and when they were proposing amendments. And how many Republican amendments were passed? Only two, neither of which spared us from the utter fiscal disaster that this bill is.
I was watching C-SPAN on-line late last night (waiting for the House to upload the Congressional record so I could look stuff up and write a story on this for my newspaper column) and quite a few Republicans took a strong stand against the bill. In particular, the Representative from the Central Michigan Area, Dave Camp (R-MI4) submitted an amendment that would have changed the stimulus package to a pure tax-cut instead of this ridiculous spending spree / tax-cut combo, but that substitute bill (labelled as an amendment) failed along party lines, with 2 Democrats crossing over.
Personally, I don’t think that a spending spree is what we need right now, but even if the Democrats insist on increasing spending, they need to do it through the proper means of apportionment instead of shoving it into one big bill. That way, maybe at least some of the frivolous spending will fail, but the way it’s going right now, the Democrats are on board with this “all or nothing” crap. I really don’t see how the Democrats think that all this spending is going to stimulate the economy, especially since some of this stuff is just so focused, like repairing graves at national cemeteries. Sure, it’s probably a good expenditure, but it’s not economic stimulus.
Hopefully the Senate votes against their version of this bill, but somehow I don’t see that happening. If they could at least cut out some of the spending though, it’d make me a little happier.
We’re gonna be in for a rough period if Congress keeps this kind of stuff up.