Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate before voting for an economic stimulus bill that is timely, temporary and targeted:
“Flip through any paper, turn on any news program, tune to any radio show – and you are bound to hear from professors, economists and analysts debating about the state of our economy. They are asking, ‘Are we in a recession now? How deep will it be? How long will it last?’
“Those questions are valid and appropriate. But they are asked by those who spend their lives thinking about the economy – not by those who spend their lives building it. To those Americans – working harder than ever and end up with less – there is no doubt to the state of our economy. Millions of working families are trying to make their pay check stretch until the next one as their gasoline, heating and grocery bills skyrocket. They know how our economy struggles.
“Millions of senior citizens are living on incomes that are fixed but face living costs that are anything but fixed. They know how our economy struggles. Small business owners are facing rising health care costs for their employees and greater difficulty finding capital to grow. They know how our economy struggles. Millions of homeowners are in foreclosure or face it soon. As they watch their dreams and their security come crashing down, they too know how our economy struggles.
“It is fair to say that President Bush will not be remembered as a good steward of our economy. He has spent seven years driving up the deficit. We have now spent more than $700 billion in Iraq – possibly $800 billion – all of it borrowed. But even this President understands the urgent need for action. To his credit, he called on Congress to pass an economic stimulus plan.
“House leaders on both sides of the aisle came together quickly to craft and pass a bill that serves as a good starting point. Most notably, the House plan sends rebate checks out to the American people just as soon as our 2007 taxes are in. Americans will use that money to pay their bills, to buy books and clothing for their children, or perhaps to make a long overdue repair to their homes or cars.
“Democrats, Republicans, all of us agree – if we give the American people this money, they will spend it. Last week, the House sent their bill to the Senate. In the Finance Committee, Chairman Baucus and Senator Grassley put their heads together – one Democrat and one Republican – and made a good bill far stronger. Here is what they were able to accomplish through bipartisanship:
- The bipartisan Finance Committee package sends stimulus checks to 21.5 million senior citizens who would get nothing from the House bill.
- The bipartisan Finance Committee package sends checks to 250,000 wounded and disabled veterans who were left out of the House plan – veterans unable to work because of the sacrifice they made for our country.
- The bipartisan Finance Committee package extends unemployment benefits for those whose jobs have fallen victim to this economy. The Department of Labor recently told us that the economy lost thousands of jobs in January – on top of the millions who are already unemployed. The House bill doesn’t extend unemployment benefits – and economists tell us that it is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the economy.
- The bipartisan Finance Committee plan helps both small and larger businesses. Small businesses will have a greater ability to immediately write-off purchases of machinery and equipment.
- And larger businesses will receive ‘bonus depreciation’ – an extended carry-back period for their past losses to recoup cash for future investments.
- 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 mortgages.
- And the Finance Committee package includes an extension of energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives to create jobs, lower our energy bills, and help begin to stem the tide of global warming.
“The amendment I have submitted adds two bipartisan measures to the committee’s bill. One is an amendment to increase loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as for FHA-backed mortgages, which will help more homeowners refinance and reduce mortgage interest rates.
“The other provides funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program – known as LIHEAP. These funds will help low income Americans afford their heating bills – that are skyrocketing even as Big Oil reports record profits yet again.
“What did the Finance Committee accomplish? They took a good plan and made it better. Better for seniors, better for veterans, better for working families, better for business – better for our economy. They did it in a bipartisan manner. And they did it quickly. They did exactly what the Senate is supposed to do.
“The stimulus plan before us tonight is smart, targeted and it will be effective. The Republican leader and members of his caucus should have come to the floor of Senate to congratulate Senators Baucus and Grassley. Republicans should have followed the bipartisan lead of their House counterparts by rallying to support a good and critical bill.
“But in the past few days, we have seen something entirely different. We have heard Secretary Paulson say that the Finance Committee’s bill is ‘coming to the trough’ at an open bazaar. Our Republican colleagues have called the Committee’s improvements ‘Christmas-tree ornaments’ and ‘pet projects.’
“Is it a ‘pet project’ to offer unemployment benefits extensions for Americans who have lost their jobs to the Bush economy? Is it a ‘pet project’ to help businesses weather the storm of this downturn? Is it a ‘pet project’ to help people pay their heating bills? Is it a ‘pet project’ to help families avoid foreclosure? If the answer is yes, these are ‘pet projects’ that Democrats and many Republicans will proudly support and defend any day.
“I hope there are enough Republicans of open mind and good will to pass this stimulus plan. If we do, we can quickly send it to conference and along to the President for his signature. If we stand together on this bill – just as Senators Baucus and Grassley did – we can achieve something today that will make our economy stronger and make the American people proud.”