Lewis Statement on the Pelosi-Obey Stimulus Plan

Apr 12, 2011
Press Release

Lewis Statement on the Pelosi-Obey Stimulus Plan

“We must work together to restore confidence in our economy”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a House Appropriations Committee mark up today on the Pelosi-Obey stimulus bill, Ranking Member Jerry Lewis gave the following statement:

“Mr. Chairman, let me begin my comments today with a direct appeal to President Obama:  “Mr. President, all of us want to see you be successful.  As we celebrate this historic moment in our nation’s history, I welcome the opportunity to work with you and your administration.  The challenges we face as Americans—not Democrats or Republicans, but Americans—are great.  We have much work to do. 

“’Mr. President, it is my sincere hope that we will work together—across party lines—to restore confidence in our economy and create a climate conducive to job growth.  We can no longer afford to point fingers and cast blame.  If there was ever a time for our country to come together, it is now.’

“Mr. Chairman and colleagues, from the outset of our debate today, let me make this point very clear:  Any suggested criticism of this package is not meant to be personal or partisan.  My comments are meant to be constructive and not to disparage the good intentions and hard work of Chairman Obey.   It is my sincere hope that we can rise above partisanship to engage in a debate worthy of this great committee.

“There is no greater challenge facing working families today than our nation’s struggling economy.  Each of us can speak passionately—and with great empathy—of people we know in our own districts who have lost their jobs, are unable to pay their mortgage, don’t have health insurance, and are struggling to make ends meet.  They are asking for our help. 

“As we demonstrate our compassion, let us also be mindful of our responsibility to assist those in need without creating an untenable situation for future generations.   That is the balance we must strive to achieve. 

“The centerpiece of any stimulus bill ought to be near-term job creation.  Government has a role—but our constituents are not asking for an unlimited expansion of government.  They are asking Congress to focus on specific sectors of our economy and to provide solutions that will offer tangible, near-term results. 

"Most of us would agree that the recent TARP bill is an illustration of how good intentions don’t always deliver desired results.  I know many Members in this room would like to have that vote back. 

“When Congress spends too much, too quickly, it doesn’t think through the details and oversight becomes more difficult.  The $700 billion TARP bill is the most recent example.  The lesson learned was this:  We cannot manage what we do not measure.  We simply cannot afford to make the same mistake again. 

“Public dismay over the lack of transparency in TARP implies a public desire for more openness and thoughtful consideration of stimulus spending.  A website is not oversight.  Posting $550 billion worth of federal spending on a website does not ensure that these funds will be well-spent. 

“Each and every agency should be required to submit a spending plan to Congress—on the front-end and not after-the-fact—to ensure that every dollar is spent as intended.  Our constituents deserve no less.

“These taxpayers—who will repay this debt over time—also deserve specific answers before we spend another nickel of their money.  They deserve to know how many jobs will be created in six months, 12 months, 18 months, and beyond. 

“They deserve to know where these jobs will be created, how many of these jobs will be skilled or unskilled positions, and whether these jobs will be sustained through higher taxes or even more government spending down the road.   These are thoughtful, reasonable questions deserving a thoughtful, reasonable response. 

“Many have described this legislation as a transportation and infrastructure investment package.  However, the fact remains that only $30 billion—or three percent—of the funding is directed toward “shovel ready” road and highway spending.  The backlog for these projects is $64.3 billion.

“Similarly, $4.5 billion is allocated for the Corps of Engineers for improved flood protection and navigation when a $61 billion backlog exists for Corps projects that are fully authorized.  These are the types of targeted infrastructure investments that will create sustainable jobs and should be given even greater priority within this package. 

“I am a supporter of Wellness programs, analog TV conversion coupons, and the NEA—but these and many other items in this bill don’t create jobs and ought to be funded through our regular appropriations process.  They do not belong in a stimulus bill. 

“Nor should a stimulus package be used to establish 32 new government programs at a cost of over $136 billion—which this bill does.  Thirty-seven percent of the total funding in this package—more than one out of every three dollars—is dedicated to creating new government programs.  Are we fostering job creation and economic stimulus or are we simply growing the size of government? 

“My opposition to this package is not based on partisan politics but on economic reality.  There is tremendous pressure on Congress to maintain funding for existing programs even before we create new ones.  Again, let’s take off our partisan hats and look at the sobering facts. 

“Congress recently provided $700 billion for TARP.  It’s now considering an $825 billion stimulus bill.  There is talk of the Senate adding another $70 billion to address the AMT fix. Congress will soon be considering nine of the remaining fiscal year 2009 spending bills at a cost of $410 billion.  And, before long, we’ll be considering another emergency supplemental spending bill. 

“Let’s be perfectly honest—all of this spending is placing a tremendous burden of debt on present and future generations.  Our projected deficit for 2009 is already approaching $1.2 trillion—the largest in history—even before we consider this proposal. 

“So, what can be done to make this a better and, perhaps, even a bipartisan bill?  Let me be specific:

1.        Narrow the focus of this bill to those items that provide measureable economic stimulus or produce jobs.  Spending should be targeted to key infrastructure investments that will create jobs over the next two years.  I don’t question the urgency of this package; I question its priorities and its price tag. 

2.        Address public concern over adequate transparency and accountability by requiring agencies to submit a spending plan to Congress—as we did with the 9/11 relief bill—on the front-end and not after-the-fact.  This will ensure that every dollar is spent as intended. 

3.        Ensure that this bill captures the full costs associated with waiving cost-share requirements and the hiring of additional federal employees.  Proper safeguards are needed to prevent the unintentional growth of government over time.   

4.        Limit the use of the stimulus bill as a vehicle for increasing base funding of popular domestic programs.  Large increases in these programs create unrealistic expectations for future spending. 

“I’ll conclude my remarks as I began them, with a message to our President: 

“Mr. President, the challenges we face transcend partisan politics.  We have an historic opportunity to work together to craft a stimulus package that Republicans and Democrats can support.   I appeal to you to include us in this process.  I wish you and your family Godspeed and welcome the opportunity to work with you.

"I thank the Chairman and yield back.”






























112th Congress