Lamar Alexander on Budget & Economy
Republican Sr Senator (TN); previously candidate for President
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. LEWIS (D, GA-5): This bipartisan bill will provide the necessary funds to keep important transportation projects operating in States around the country. The Highway Trust Fund will run out of funding by September. We must act, and we must act now.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. CAMP (R, MI-4): [This interim spending is] needed because the Democrats' economic policy has resulted in record job loss, record deficits, and none of the job creation they promised. Democrats predicted unemployment would top out at 8% if the stimulus passed; instead, it's 9.5% and rising. In Michigan, it's above 15%. The Nation's public debt and unemployment, combined, has risen by a shocking 40% [because of] literally trillions of dollars in additional spending under the Democrats' stimulus, energy, and health plans.
We had a choice when it came to the stimulus last February. We could have chosen a better policy of stimulating private-sector growth creating twice the jobs at half the price. That was the Republican plan. Instead, Democrats insisted on their government focus plan, which has produced no jobs and a mountain of debt.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. PETER WELCH (D, VT-0): Citigroup supports this bill. Why? They're a huge lender. They understand that we have to stabilize home values in order to begin the recovery, and they need a tool to accomplish it. Mortgages that have been sliced and diced into 50 different sections make it impossible even for a mortgage company and a borrower to come together to resolve the problem that they share together.
Sen. DICK DURBIN (D, IL): 8.1 million homes face foreclosure in America today. Last year, I offered this amendment to change the bankruptcy law, and the banking community said: Totally unnecessary. In fact, the estimates were of only 2 million homes in foreclosure last year. America is facing a crisis.
Opponent's argument to vote No:
Sen. JON KYL (R, AZ): This amendment would allow bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages by lowering the principal and interest rate on the loan or extending the term of the loan. The concept in the trade is known as cram-down. It would apply to all borrowers who are 60 days or more delinquent. Many experts believe the cram-down provision would result in higher interest rates for all home mortgages. We could end up exacerbating this situation for all the people who would want to refinance or to take out loans in the future.
Rep. MICHELE BACHMANN (R, MN-6): Of the foundational policies of American exceptionalism, the concepts that have inspired our great Nation are the sanctity of private contracts and upholding the rule of law. This cramdown bill crassly undercuts both of these pillars of American exceptionalism. Why would a lender make a 30-year loan if they fear the powers of the Federal Government will violate the very terms of that loan?
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. DAVID OBEY (D, WI-7): This country is facing what most economists consider to be the most serious and the most dangerous economic situation in our lifetimes. This package today is an $825 billion package that does a variety of things to try to reinflate the economy:
Opponent's argument to vote No:
Rep. JERRY LEWIS (R, CA-51): Most of us would agree that the recent $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is an illustration of how good intentions don't always deliver desired results. When Congress spends too much too quickly, it doesn't think through the details and oversight becomes more difficult. The lesson learned from TARP was this: we cannot manage what we do not measure. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.
Sen. THAD COCHRAN (R, MS): We are giving the executive branch immense latitude in the disbursement of the spending this bill contains. We are doing so without any documentation of how this spending will stimulate the economy. Normally, this kind of information would be contained in an administration budget. For items that have a short-term stimulative effect, most of us will feel comfortable debating their merits as an emergency measure. But there is a great deal of spending that is not immediately stimulative.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. DAVID OBEY (D, WI-7): Congress has tried to do a number of things that would alleviate the squeeze on the middle class. Meanwhile, this economy is sagging. Jobs, income, sales, and industrial production have all gone down. We have lost 600,000 jobs. We are trying to provide a major increase in investments to modernize our infrastructure and to provide well-paying construction jobs at the same time.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. JERRY LEWIS (R, CA-41): Just 2 days ago we were debating an $800 billion continuing resolution. Now in addition to being asked to pay for a bailout for Wall Street, taxpayers are being asked to swallow an additional $60 billion on a laundry list of items I saw for the first time just a few hours ago. The Democratic majority is describing this legislation as a "stimulus package" to help our national economy. But let's not fool ourselves. This is a political document pure and simple. If these priorities are so important, why hasn't this bill gone through the normal legislative process? We should have debated each of the items included in this package.
It doesn't take an economist to tell you that the economy needs our help. But what does this Congress do? It proposes to spend billions more without any offsets in spending. The failure to adhere to PAYGO means that this new spending will be financed through additional borrowing, which will prove a further drag on our struggling economy.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
My amendment says we are going to take about $18 billion as a strong signal from the Congress that we want to support effective programs and we want the taxpayer dollars spent in a responsible way. My amendment doesn't take all of the $88 billion for the programs found by PART, realizing there may be points in time when another program is not meeting its goals and needs more money. So that flexibility is allowed in this particular amendment. It doesn't target any specific program. Almost worse than being rated ineffective, we have programs out there that have made absolutely no effort at all to measure their results. I believe these are the worst offenders. In the following years, I hope Congress will look at those programs to create accountability.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
The effect of this amendment will simply be to cut domestic discretionary spending $18 billion. Understand the programs that have been identified in the PART program are results not proven. Here are programs affected: Border Patrol, Coast Guard search and rescue, high-intensity drug trafficking areas, LIHEAP, rural education, child abuse prevention, and treatment. If there is a problem in those programs, they ought to be fixed. We ought not to be cutting Border Patrol, Coast Guard search and rescue, high-intensity drug trafficking areas, LIHEAP, rural education, and the rest. I urge a "no" vote.
Congressional Summary:JOINT RESOLUTION: Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives: That Congress disapproves of the President's exercise of authority to increase the debt limit, as submitted on Jan. 12, 2012.
Congressional Vote: Vote #4 in the House: 239 Yeas; 176 Nays; Senate declined to vote on the Resolution.
OnTheIssues Explanation: On Jan. 12, 2012, Pres. Obama notified Congress of his intent to raise the nation's debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion, two weeks after he had postponed the request to give lawmakers more time to consider the action. Congress then had 15 days to say no before the debt ceiling is automatically raised from $15.2 trillion to $16.4 trillion. Hence the debt ceiling was increased.
In Aug. 2011, the US government was nearly shut down by an impasse over raising the debt ceiling; under an agreement reached then, the President could raise the debt limit in three increments while also implementing $2.4 trillion in budget cuts. The agreement also gave Congress the option of voting to block each of the debt-ceiling increases by passing a "resolution of disapproval." The House disapproved; the Senate, by declining to vote in the 15-day window, killed the Resolution. Even if the resolution were passed, Pres. Obama could veto it; which could be overridden by a 2/3 majority in the House and Senate. The House vote only had 57% approval, not enough for the 67% override requirement, so the Senate vote became moot. The same set of actions occurred in Sept. 2011 for the first debt ceiling increase.
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