Prior to Final Vote, Wicker Outlines His Opposition to $1 Trillion Spending Bill

WASHINGTON – During debate today on the Senate floor, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., outlined the reasons he plans to vote against the “compromise” version of the Democrats’

$1 trillion stimulus bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill later this afternoon. If approved, the plan will be sent to the president to be signed into law. Earlier today, the House of Representatives approved the plan without a single Republican vote.

Wicker again said he believes action needs to be taken to help stimulate our economy, but that it should be more targeted to job creation and less expensive to taxpayers. Last week, Wicker voted for an alternative stimulus plan, sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that spent half as much as the Democrats’ proposal. The alternative, which was defeated on a party-line vote, focused on working class and small business tax relief, targeted infrastructure spending, and incentives to help fix the housing problem.

The following excerpts are from Sen. Wicker’s speech:

· “Republicans responded to the president’s call … We presented ideas that I believe could have turned this economy around. Our ideas focused, first, on getting the housing market out of the gutter. The housing problem is what got us where we currently are, and it should be where we begin in turning our economy around. Also, we proposed real tax relief for Americans, working people, and for those people who create over half the jobs in this country – our nation’s small businesses.”

· “Additionally, our plan called for targeted infrastructure investments with clear economic development purposes, in addition to putting an emphasis on legitimate government priorities like early investment in military equipment and facilities — items we know will be funded in the future but would create jobs quickly if we focused on them now. Just as importantly, the Republican plan that I supported would have stimulated our economy at half the cost of the plan we’re considering today.”

· “Mr. President, I’ve said it before in this debate and I’ll say it one more time: $1 trillion is a terrible thing to waste. But that’s exactly what this bill does. This bill is full of bad decisions that will take Americans decades to pay for.”

· “Americans expect us to get this right and to take the time necessary to make sure we get this right. This bill fails to hit that mark. I’ll vote ‘no’ because we simply cannot afford, again, to make a mistake of this magnitude.”

The following is the full transcript of Sen. Wicker’s speech:

As members of this chamber can see from the debate that we’ve had today and throughout the past couple of weeks, almost everyone in the Senate and in the House of Representatives agrees on the need for Congress to be working with our new president on a stimulus plan to jump-start the economy. We have people in our home states that are hurting. Six-hundred thousand jobs lost last month across our country. These facts underscore the need for something to be done to strengthen our economy. So we’re all in agreement on that basic premise.

There’s a great deal of good will out there in the country for our new president. And I want to commend President Obama for making the economy his main focus. I also want to commend him for publicly stating that Democrats don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. The president said that Republicans have good ideas also, and he wanted to include them in his stimulus plan.

That is not what happened when House Democrats met behind closed doors several days ago to write this bill. And it is not what has happened throughout the process.

Republicans responded to the president’s call. We came forward. We came to this floor. We talked to our constituents back home. We stood before every television camera that would film us. We talked to every journalist we could find. And we’ve discussed our ideas with the American people. We presented ideas that I believe could have turned this economy around. Our ideas focused, first, on getting the housing market out of the gutter. The housing problem is what got us where we currently are, and it should be where we begin in turning our economy around. Also, we proposed real tax relief for Americans, working people, and for those people who create over half the jobs in this country – our nation’s small businesses.

Additionally, our plan called for targeted infrastructure investments with clear economic development purposes, in addition to putting an emphasis on legitimate government priorities like early investment in military equipment and facilities — items we know will be funded in the future but would create jobs quickly if we focused on them now. Just as importantly, the Republican plan that I supported would have stimulated our economy at half the cost of the plan we’re considering today. And that’s not just my opinion. That’s the opinion of a lot of very well-considered Democrats in this town.

Three days ago the Senate cast one of the most expensive votes in the history of the United States of America. That $835 billion bill, which when you add in the cost of interest cost $1.2 trillion, has been given, at best, a small haircut. The bill before us is being presented to the American people today at a cost of $789 billion, still in the neighborhood of $1.1 trillion to $1.2 trillion when one adds the cost of debt service.

In order to reach the current number, this so-called compromise cut much of the tax relief geared toward job creation and stimulating the housing market in order to keep in place spending for slow, unending and non-job-creating government programs. As the Washington Post reported yesterday morning, this final product “claims many coauthors, including House liberals who saw a rare opportunity to secure new social spending.” And take advantage of that opportunity they did, indeed.

It now appears that the majority leadership in the House and Senate have taken a bad bill and made it worse. Two popular items — one Republican and one Democrat — added to the Senate bill on the floor have been dropped from the final version and replaced with weaker alternatives that are less likely to work to stimulate home sales and automobile sales.

The first is the Isakson amendment, which was so widely agreed upon in this chamber it was approved by a voice vote. It went right to the housing problem and provided a $15,000 tax credit to all home buyers — a concept which has worked in the past in the United States. Yet the final conference report reverts back to the House-passed proposal providing much less money and an $8,000 credit, and limits the provision to first-time home buyers. We need to encourage home buying by every American who is credit worthy. This provision doesn’t get the job done.

The Mikulski amendment offered by our Democratic colleague from Maryland also had wide bipartisan support. It passed this chamber by a vote of 71-26. It has been dropped in favor of a weakened alternative. The plan now allows new car buyers to deduct from their federal taxes the sales tax they paid on a new car. But the Mikulski provision that would have also allowed them to deduct interest on their car loans was stripped. The Mikulski amendment would have helped struggling U.S. automakers and auto dealers get buyers in the show room and helped move cars off their lots. It would have also helped protect endangered automobile industry jobs. And like the Isakson amendment, it was, unfortunately, removed from this final package.

So while the conferees tinkered around the edges making this bill worse in some ways, we stand here today debating a bill that will add over $1 trillion to the national credit card. Mr. President, I’ve said it before in this debate and I’ll say it one more time: $1 trillion is a terrible thing to waste. But that’s exactly what this bill does. This bill is full of bad decisions that will take Americans decades to pay for.

Much has been made during this debate by me and by many of my colleagues about how much $1 trillion is. I think we well established that this is a staggering amount of money. Again, Mr. President, this is the most expensive piece of legislation ever passed in the history of our republic.

Last September, Congress approved the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. That came on top of approximately $200 billion-plus earlier in the year in the form of rebate checks. I think the American people have the right to ask of that $200 billion and then the $700 billion — almost $1 trillion right there and certainly more than $1 trillion when you add the debt service — what did we get? What did the taxpayers get? What did the American public get for that unbelievably expensive expenditure of taxpayer funds last year? A worsened economy. That is what we’ve gotten. We certainly didn’t get the economic boost that was promised.

In an editorial yesterday in the Wall Street Journal it was noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimates the 2009 deficit will reach 8.3 percent of the economy — a number that does not include the stimulus or the TARP funds. We know that after this is enacted — and it does appear that the proponents of this conference report have the votes to move it to the president’s desk — we know that another very expensive financial package will be forthcoming from the administration in a matter of days.

So what does this mean for people across America? Each household now owes more than $100,000 to pay for the debt we already have, not including the additional debt that is coming.

Senators need to ask themselves: when is enough, enough? When will we begin making hard choices between what will truly work to stimulate this economy and what we just would like to have but will not work to get the job done?

Americans expect us to get this right and to take the time necessary to make sure we get this right. This bill fails to hit that mark. I’ll vote “no” because we simply cannot afford, again, to make a mistake of this magnitude.

US Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) Press Release
2/13/9