Ranking Member Lewis Floor Statement on the Stimulus Legislation

Apr 12, 2011
Press Release

 Statement of House Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis

 Stimulus Conference Report Floor Consideration

 February 13, 2009

 Mr. Speaker, in just a short while, the House will be voting on the President’s economic stimulus package.  At $790 billion, it’s by far the most expensive piece of legislation ever considered by this legislative body in its more than 200 year history.  I will be voting “no” on this legislation.  Over the next few minutes, I’d like to share my concerns with this bill as written.

The President, whom I respect a great deal, is a fine salesman.  But, as I’ve said on more than one occasion, facts are stubborn things.  The fact is that this stimulus package does more to permanently grow the federal government than it does to create jobs or stimulate our economy. 

The fact is there are 104 government programs in this legislation that are being permanently expanded.  This includes 31 new government programs and permanent expansions to 73 existing programs.  Taxpayers will pay for these programs well into the future. 

Of the total funding in this package, $190 billion, or 61 percent, is devoted to increasing the size of government.  Only $122 billion, or 39 percent, is for a temporary, one-time infusion of money into 98 federal programs to stimulate the economy.  Again, those are the facts. 

The interest on this new spending, alone, will cost no less than $350 billion.  And, if all of the new spending in this bill is carried forward into future years, federal non-defense budgets will have to increase by at least 42 percent each year.  One more time, these are the facts. 

My colleagues, is there anyone in Congress who really believes that this spending can be sustained?  Let’s not kid ourselves.  When it comes to Washington spending taxpayers’ money, a trillion has become the new million.  

I’m also concerned that this bill provides hundreds of billions of dollars with no clear spending plan.  This lack of oversight should be a concern to every taxpayer in America.  If the public thought the first Wall Street bailout bill was poorly managed, wait until you see the waste, fraud, and abuse in this bill.  Even many House Democrats are privately expressing these same concerns.

Early on, the President indicated his willingness to engage in bipartisanship to bridge the partisan divide in Congress.  I was hopeful as he spoke to House Republicans and began reaching out to individual Republican Members.  On several occasions, I sent signals to the White House indicating my desire to work with the President in my role as ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.  To date, I’ve not heard from the President or his staff. 

So, how did we get to this point today?  Two nights ago, the President’s chief of staff came to Capitol Hill under the cover of darkness and presented the framework of a final deal to Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi.  The only negotiation that took place occurred in the middle of the night, in several backrooms of the U.S. Capitol, between the White House and these two leaders. 

There are hundreds of billions of dollars of spending in this legislation and yet, not one member of the House Appropriations Committee—not even Chairman Obey—was in sight when the final deal was cut.  There are hundreds of billions of tax provisions in this legislation and yet, not one member of the House Ways and Means Committee—not even Chairman Rangel—was in sight when the final deal was cut. 

The purpose of a conference committee is to negotiate differences between competing House and Senate versions of legislation.  Amendments are offered, debated, and considered.  But, there were no negotiations between Republicans and Democrats at Wednesday’s conference.  The negotiation had taken place—without us—the night before.    

Outside of the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader, no one in Congress has any idea what’s in this legislation.  It was filed in the House as it was negotiated—in the darkness of night.  And it became available to Members and the public on a website at 12:30 a.m. this morning—less than 12 hours ago. 

This is precisely why every single Member present on Tuesday—more than 400 House Members—voted to have the conference report available 48 hours before House consideration.  But the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader are clearly afraid that the more Members and taxpayers learn about this bill, the more Members will walk away from it. 

I understand the Speaker has a plane to catch today and that other Members have important plans this weekend.  But the House should not vote on the largest spending bill in the history of the United States when no one on either side of the aisle has any idea what’s in it. 

I’m not under any illusion about the final outcome of this vote today.  This legislation will pass the House and the Senate will pass it by very narrow margin.  You will likely hear the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader hail this legislation as bipartisan.  To the taxpayers of America, I say this:  Do not for one minute believe this is a bipartisan bill. 

It’s been said time and time again that in order for economic stimulus to succeed, it must be “targeted, timely, and temporary.”  By now, it’s been credibly established in the mind’s eye of the media and the public that this legislation is none of the above. 

From the very beginning, this effort was about targeting enough votes to pass this bill in the Senate.  Ironically, at the end of the day, it’s the bipartisanship itself –not the legislation—that has been targeted, timely, and temporary. 

There is no doubt that urgent action is needed to stimulate the economy and create jobs.  Had the President and congressional leaders focused their attention on real job creation—with an emphasis on infrastructure jobs—this package would be sailing through the Senate with broad, bipartisan support.  

In the end, funding for roads, highways, flood control measures, and other job creating infrastructure projects were downsized in order to increase the size and scope of government. 

Mr. Speaker, that’s not stimulus.  That’s not job creation.  And it certainly isn’t change the country needs or deserves. 

I reserve the balance of my time. 



112th Congress