Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Risch, Crapo vote

Measure passes U.S. Senate, now headed for negotiations

Express Staff Writer

Both of Idaho's U.S. senators voted against the stimulus bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republicans, called the bill "dangerous" and said it would contribute to the country's debt.

The full Senate voted 61 to 37 to send H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as amended, to a conference committee with the U.S. House of Representatives to reconcile differences between the two versions.

The passage came after a week of politicking by President Barack Obama. But Republicans, including Crapo and Risch, consider the bill poorly designed.

"Despite the call by our president for a robust spending bill to create jobs now, only 13 percent of the appropriated infrastructure spending in this bill would be spent this year to create jobs," Crapo said in a prepared statement Tuesday. "The Congressional Budget Office says over the next 10 years this bill will seriously damage our economy because of the huge federal debt. I very strongly oppose this dangerous legislation because we can't spend our way to prosperity. There are better ways to create jobs than this plan, but unfortunately, it appears big spending is back in Washington, D.C."

Crapo said he would prefer to see spending on targeted infrastructure projects such as cleanup at the Idaho National Laboratory. The compromise legislation actually contains $6.4 billion for cleanup that Crapo helped place in the bill. He says that kind of spending, plus broad tax relief to provide certainty to taxpayers and incentives for investment in homes and jobs, could help the economy.

"The bottom line is this bill contains too much deficit spending and too little job creation," Crapo concluded. "Even the Congressional Budget Office agrees that only a third of this $838 billion in new deficit spending comes in tax relief—the other two-thirds of the bill contains spending that may or may not have the job creation results we seek. We can't risk creating a $2 trillion deficit that will haunt our children and grandchildren and could wreak havoc on our economy in the long run."

Risch called the bill an irresponsible, giant spending package in remarks sent to reporters Tuesday.

"This is a giant fraud on the American people," Risch said in prepared remarks. "Taxpayers are being hoodwinked into calling this a stimulus package when in fact much of it is nothing more than an enormous spending package that contains a wish list of pet projects and massive spending that will do little to quickly assist our economy and the families who desperately need help."

Risch said there were some amendments he supported, including a home buyer tax credit.

"Nearly everyone agrees it was a crisis in housing that led to this recession, yet that very market was being ignored in the original bill. Raising the tax credit up to $15,000 for home purchases was a good addition," Risch said.

Risch tried without success to get some amendments into the bill.

"Unfortunately, good amendments, such as preventing agencies from adding new spending programs, and tax changes to make the child tax credit and marriage-penalty relief permanent were defeated," Risch said. "Another amendment to refinance or offer new mortgages at a rate of 4 percent was also killed."

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