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VIDEO UPDATE: Bailout package not that stimulating

Federal help won't aid local coffers

Posted: January 28, 2009 9:39 p.m.
Updated: January 29, 2009 2:18 p.m.

Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, talks with media representatives in his district on a conference call Monday.

 

President Barack Obama’s $819 billion stimulus bill approved Wednesday by the Democrat-controlled House might be historic, but it won’t create the jobs most people think it will, says Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon.

Speaking to reporters on the phone from Washington shortly before the House voted 244-188 in favor of the president’s recovery plan, McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said he fears the bill will not immediately create jobs.

“What really bothers me is that it’s being sold as a stimulus package,” McKeon said. “Most people think it’s going into roads and bridges and infrastructure but — just to compare apples to apples — $30 billion is being set aside for highway construction and about $141 billion for education.

“So for every dollar they’re putting into roads they’re putting five dollars into education, which I support — just not in a stimulus package.”

In the moments before the vote was taken, President Obama said in a written statement: “This recovery plan will save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years.”

Earlier, Obama said, “We don’t have a moment to spare” as congressional allies hastened to do his bidding in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The vote sent the bill to the Senate, where debate could begin as early as Monday on a companion measure already taking shape. Democratic leaders pledged to have legislation ready for Obama’s signature by mid-February.

Several times during Wednesday’s conference call with reporters, McKeon referred to the bill as the “so-called stimulus package.”

McKeon claims it may be $819 billion today but, after the federal government meets all of its outstanding budgetary commitments to existing programs such as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), the package will mushroom in size.

“It’s like they dressed something up as a lamb, but when we take the hide off it’s a wolf, and then it comes back to bite you, year after year after year,” he said.

House Republicans unanimously opposed the bill but McKeon had a chance to tell the president directly what he thought of it.

“The president really did try to reach out.  He had a couple of meetings with us. He came and met with us at our conference, and I told him afterwards, ‘Your arguments didn’t convince me. I don’t go along with your policies on this, but at least I understand where you’re coming from,’” McKeon said.

The president acknowledged the congressman’s difference in opinion McKeon said, adding aside from the his attempts to cross the aisle, his bill received no Republican input.

“No Republican sat in on any discussion or planning on this,” McKeon said. “Not one Republican was invited to any discussion until the bill was written.”

Eight days after Inauguration Day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday’s events heralded a new era.
“The ship of state is difficult to turn,” said the California Democrat. “But that is what we must do. That is what President Obama called us to do in his inaugural address.”

Pelosi’s statement about the election win, however, is what rings in McKeon’s ear.

“It’s like Nancy Pelosi said, ‘We won the election. We wrote the bill,’” said McKeon.

With unemployment at its highest level in a quarter-century, the banking industry wobbling despite the infusion of staggering sums of bailout money and states struggling with budget crises, Democrats said the legislation was desperately needed.

McKeon wasn’t the lone voice of opposition.

Republicans said the bill was short on tax cuts and contained too much spending, much of it wasteful and unlikely to help unemployed Americans.

The party’s leader, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the measure “won’t create many jobs, but it will create plenty of programs and projects through slow-moving government spending.”

A GOP alternative, comprised almost entirely of tax cuts, was defeated, 266-170, moments before the final vote.

On the final vote, the legislation drew the support of all but 11 Democrats, while all Republicans opposed it.
The White House-backed legislation includes an estimated $544 billion in federal spending and $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

Included is money for traditional job-creating programs such as highway construction and mass transit projects. But the measure tickets far more for unemployment benefits, health care and food stamp increases.

Tens of billions of additional dollars would go to the states, which confront the prospect of deep budget cuts of their own. That money marks an attempt to ease the recession’s impact on schools and law enforcement.

With funding for housing weatherization and other provisions, the bill also makes a down payment on Obama’s campaign promise of creating jobs that can reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

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