Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate in response to the Republican leadership’s mischaracterization of the economic stimulus package:
“Yesterday and today, we have heard some remarkable statements from our Republican colleagues. We heard the distinguished Minority Leader, Senator McConnell, come to the floor with a statement that is simply, objectively untrue. This morning, Senator McConnell said, ‘If Americans are wondering why their checks aren’t in the mail, they can find it in last week’s news clips.’
“Republicans know perfectly well that no matter how this debate turns out, no one’s checks are being held up. Any stimulus plan – whether the House version, the Senate Finance Committee version, or a combination of the two – would calculate rebate checks on 2007 income tax returns. We all know that taxes are not due until April 15th. That is more than two months from today. So, let’s not confuse or concern the American people with claims that aren’t based on facts.
“Perhaps my Republican colleagues did not understand the timeframe of the stimulus package when he made that inaccurate statement. If so, I hope he will clarify it. What else have we heard from our Republican colleagues? One Republican Senator suggested that we ought not do anything at all to stimulate the economy. That we ought not provide any help at all to the millions of Americans struggling to pay their bills and feed their families.
“Republican Senators have suggested that sending stimulus checks to 21.5 million senior citizens – many on fixed incomes – is a ‘pet project.’ That sending stimulus checks to 250,000 disabled veterans is a ‘pet project.’ That providing assistance to help struggling Americans pay their heating bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a ‘pet project.’
“Democrats – and I believe many Republicans – could not disagree more strongly. The stimulus package sent to us by the House of Representatives last week was a good start. But it is our job to take a bill from the House and work to make it stronger. The Republican leader said this morning that working on bipartisan improvements is ‘playing politics.’ I say it is our Constitutional obligation. It’s how the Senate is supposed to work.
“Soon, Senators will have the chance to vote on the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan plan. Based on the House plan, it makes several improvements:
- The Finance Committee package sends stimulus checks to roughly 21.5 million senior citizens would get nothing at all from the House bill. 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. 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.
“I will also offer an amendment that we can and should all support: First, 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.
“Second, $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.
“So let’s leave the overheated rhetoric aside and get to work on passing this plan.”