July 31, 2009
“Cash for Clunkers” Fix is Second Government Program Bailout in Three Days
Taxpayers Again Footing the Bill for Problems Caused by “Martial Law” Legislating
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House today considered expedited legislation to provide up to $2 billion in additional funds for the “Cash for Clunkers” program that was jammed through Congress earlier this summer on an emergency war funding bill. The program – which is beset by administrative problems – has blown through the $1 billion in taxpayer funds provided under the original legislation in just one week.
House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis made the following statement on this latest bailout:
“Mr. Chairman, I rise to point out the absurdity of the situation we find ourselves in today. In the majority’s haste to slam legislation through the floor, with almost no consideration at the Committee level, with no time for consideration by the House membership in general, and with absolutely no ability for the Members of this body to amend bills on the floor, we are now seeing the effects of such short sighted martial law tactics.
“Mr. Chairman, the Cash for Clunkers program was passed on the suspension calendar, so no Members were able to offer amendments. The Senate had a comparable bill with some significant differences. The House and Senate bills should have gone to a full and open conference so those differences could be negotiated and a conference report then brought for a vote. Instead, the Leadership of this body, without consultation or negotiation, stuck the House version of Cash for Clunkers on what was supposed to be a “clean” war supplemental – a bill only for the purpose of funding and supporting our troops and our efforts overseas in the war on terror. They had to do that because of the mess the Majority created of the “conferenced” bill – and I use that term loosely as most of the funding levels and programs were determined not in a conference, but by the House Leadership and Chairman Obey. But when it came to counting votes, the Leadership and the Chairman had to do some fast dancing and started loading up the war supplemental with extraneous and unrelated items all to get more votes. Cash for clunkers was one of those items.
“My colleagues in the Senate, Senator Feinstein and Senator Collins, had some serious concerns with the House bill – she tried to negotiate some changes to improve the program, but was rebuffed by Chairman Obey. Basically, they were told it was his way or the highway.
“Here we are today – not one hearing on the Cash for Clunkers program in the Appropriations Committee. Not one hearing on the needs of the program prior to receiving funds. Not one hearing on how the first billion dollars has been spent. Not one hearing on how much money the program will need to get through the fiscal year. Instead, we find ourselves on the suspension calendar for the second time in three days – bailing out another program, shoveling another $2 billion out the door this fiscal year after we shoveled $14 billion out the door to bail about the Highway and other trust funds on Wednesday.
“My colleagues are going to pat themselves on the back for finding an offset for this transfer and for that I say two things – first, you should have been finding ways to offset spending all year. Second – if there was an “extra” $2 billion in a stimulus program that was suitable for a different purpose, why did we spend the $2 billion in the first place? How many other billions of dollars are in the stimulus not being spent that we can return to the taxpayers?
“Now many of my colleagues will say this is a great program and necessary for the revitalization of the economy and the car industry – and I’m not going to argue with those goals – those are good goals and we are all looking for solutions. However, are we sure this program is working like it’s supposed to? How is it that we didn’t hear of this funding problem until last night and even then we were told there was roughly 24 hours before they were going to shut down the program? This program has only been up and running one week!
If this how the government is going to handle billion dollar programs affecting all Americans, I ask, whatever will we do if this Administration takes control of our health care? I quote one car dealer from New York, “If they can't administer a program like this, I'd be a little concerned about my health insurance.” I say “amen.”