Congressman Chris Lee spoke yesterday against the $819 billion economic stimulus package that passed the House yesterday by a vote of 244-188—not a single Republican voted in favor of the measure, along with eleven Democrats who also disapproved. His office sent us this video of that speech.
From the press release issued by Lee's office:
Congressman Lee supports an economic stimulus plan that works swiftly and effectively while spending Western New Yorkers’ hard-earned tax dollars wisely. That’s why he voted this evening for an alternative measure that includes immediate tax relief for working families, help for America’s small businesses, assistance for the unemployed, stabilization of home values, and no tax increases to pay for spending. Congressman Lee helped craft this alternative measure as part of a working group of Republican lawmakers appointed by House leaders to present ideas to President Obama for inclusion in a bipartisan stimulus plan.
Since being sworn-in to office, Congressman Lee has been gathering information on the stimulus plan, evaluating dozens of proposals, and carefully considering the best ideas for creating jobs in Western New York. He has met with and solicited input from community leaders, economic experts, and constituents. He will discuss his views on the stimulus plan in a live telephone town hall meeting to be held this evening with residents in all seven counties of the 26th district.
Lee calls for more to be done to spur job growth and protect the unemployed. He calls for more tax cuts and less spending. And he claims that not enough is being done to provide tax relief for the middle class. These sound like great points: more jobs, better protection, more relief, fewer burdens—all good stuff.
Yet, confusingly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that the current bill does all of those things. Her Web site lists "tax cuts for American families" that would total $185 billion over the next 10 years. Such cuts would include immediate relief "to 95 percent of American workers through a refundable tax credit of up to $500 per worker ($1,000 per couple filing jointly).... These tax cuts would be distributed to millions of families by reducing tax withholding from workers’ paychecks."
Furthermore, she cites "business tax incentives to create jobs and spur investment" that would total $20 billion over the next ten years. "This would allow businesses to write off 90% of losses incurred in 2008 and 2009 against taxes assessed over the previous five years." What's more, "this would not be available to companies that have benefited under the TARP."
Of course, there is plenty else mentioned in Pelosi's breakdown that doesn't sound so rosy. If the situation is as dire as we're being told, should we be fronting a $6 billion broadband expansion? What about $650 million for television upgrades? Lee's office sent us this list of other "egregious spending" included in the bill:
• $1 billion for the follow-up to the 2010 Census.
• $600 million to buy new cars for government workers.
• $462 million for equipment, construction, and renovation of facilities at the Centers for Disease Control.
• $335 million for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
• $50 million in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts.
• $44 million for repairs to U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters.
I don't know if all of these count as instances of egregious spending—$50 million for the NEA is nothing compared with $650 to keep people watching television. Furthermore, there's so much money, ludicrous amounts of money, that this bill seeks to release in the name of modernization. Sincerely, at one point, in Pelosi's breakdown, a use given for some of the funds is literally: to "create new modernization ... programs." What!?
For the scrappy among you, you can visit the topics page on the economic stimulus put together by the New York Times. On it, there is a link to the full text of the bill.
Of course, area Democrats were quick to respond to Lee's no vote. They issued the following statement yesterday evening:
Democrats in the GLOW Counties (Genesee, Livingston, Orlean, and Wyoming) reacted this evening to Congressman Chris Lee's (NY 26) vote against the stimulus package that was approved tonight by the House of Representatives.
Phil Jones, the Livingston County Democratic Chair, stated, "We are extremely disappointed that Chris Lee chose to put party discipline over the needs of the people of the 26th District and the entire nation tonight by voting against the recovery plan. We face new layoff announcements in the thousands every day in this economy, but following his party's marching orders seems more important to Mr. Lee than trying to implement constructive solutions."
Genesee County Democratic Chair Lorie Longhany noted the fact that President Obama and Democrats in Congress had consistently worked to gain Republican support for the stimulus bill, adding additional tax cuts and getting rid of some specific spending to which Republicans objected. "But the Republicans, and regrettably Congressman Lee, decided they would rather oppose all efforts and simply obstruct all good faith attempts to work with them. Things are tough; we don't have time for these games."
Harold Bush, the Democratic Chair of Wyoming County, pointed out, "President Obama even went to Capitol Hill itself in an attempt to get at least some of the Republicans to work together with him on economic recovery. It's a shame Chris Lee didn't put the interests of our district ahead of those of his party leadership."
Jeanne Crane, who is Chair of the Orleans County Democratic Committee, agreed. "We have always had representatives in this district who were more concerned with serving their party than serving us. It's a shame that hasn't changed."