Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
“Each day now, newspapers around the country tell new stories of America’s economic troubles. Housing foreclosures are up dramatically in cities and towns throughout the country – including an astonishing rise of:
- More than 600 percent in Reno, Nevada;
- 200 percent in Las Vegas;
- 275 percent in Florida; and
- 300 percent in California.
“Gas prices are well above $3 per gallon throughout the country. Heating costs are skyrocketing. And Friday, the Department of Labor’s jobs report showed that 17,000 non-farm jobs were cut in January. Seventeen thousand husbands, wives, sons and daughters no longer have a job.
“After eight years of economic growth during the Clinton years, the Bush Administration’s seven years have shown anemic job growth. Now job growth is nonexistent. It is negative.
“With troubling statistics like these – and growing economic challenges in our daily lives – it’s no wonder that polls show the American people are more concerned about the economy than at any point in recent memory. Congress can’t solve this problem on its own with a single piece of legislation, but we can and must help.
“Last week, the House sent us a plan that was a good first step. But we have a chance in the Senate to make the plan much better. Senators Baucus and Grassley have worked together to send us a bipartisan package that we can and should all support:
- The Finance Committee package sends stimulus checks to roughly 21.5 million senior citizens would get nothing at all from the House bill. Many of these seniors are living on fixed incomes, but facing living costs – for heat, medicine and groceries — that are anything but fixed. Give them the money and they will spend it.
- This Finance Committee package sends checks to 250,000 disabled veterans who were left out of the House plan. These wounded American heroes are struggling to make ends meet, and we should not leave them out. Give them the money and they will spend it.
- The Finance Committee package extends unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs in this economy. The House bill doesn’t do that – and many economists tell us that it is the single most effective way to stimulate the economy.
- The Finance Committee package is business-friendly. It gives small businesses a greater ability to immediately write-off purchases of machinery and equipment.
- And it helps larger businesses with “bonus” depreciation — or an extended carry back period for their past losses to recoup cash for future investments. Give them this tax break and they will spend it.
- The Finance Committee package addresses the housing crisis by including $10 billion in mortgage revenue bonds that can be used by the states to refinance subprime mortgages.
- And the Finance Committee package includes an extension of energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives to create jobs, expand the clean energy industry, save consumers money on their energy bills, and help begin to stem the tide of global warming.
“At the appropriate time, I will offer a substitute amendment to the House-passed legislation that will incorporate the measures reported by the Finance Committee last week on a bipartisan basis. My amendment will also include the House-passed bill’s language on housing. This amendment will increase the conforming loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the loan limits for FHA-backed mortgages, which will allow more homeowners to refinance and will reduce mortgage interest rates in many parts of the country. And this amendment will include $1 billion to help low-income Americans heat their homes through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program – known as LIHEAP. LIHEAP provides some relief to prevent people from having to choose between food, medicine, or heat – but we must do more.
“All Americans should know that their rebate checks will not be delayed a single minute as a result of our debate. Under the terms of the House plan, the Internal Revenue Service will determine the size of payments based on 2007 tax returns, which are not due until April 15. That gives us the opportunity to work together to create a better plan – without any need for concern.
“The Finance Committee’s bipartisan work builds on the bill sent to us by the House of Representatives and makes it much better – fairer to seniors and disabled veterans, and, most importantly, more effective in stimulating the economy. And that’s the bottom line: it will do the job. It will work.
“We have a chance now to stimulate the economy and help more struggling Americans. I hope that Democrats, Republicans, all Senators, will work together to build on the good work done by the House of Representatives by supporting the Finance Committee’s bill.”