Stimulus package passes first test

After pleading with Republicans for support of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Obama failed to gain any support from the right side of the aisle in the House yesterday.
No Republicans voted in favor of the bill and were joined by 12 Democrats. Local Democrat Ike Skelton spoke yesterday on the House floor in favor of the bill stating that his main reason for support was because, “The legislation would commit plentiful resources for programs important to rural America.”
Skelton told House members the legislation would direct “critical” military construction projects.
Skelton warned his colleagues that more legislation in addition to this bill would be needed.
“While the economic recovery legislation is an important part of our country’s effort to stimulate the economy, it should not be perceived as a silver bullet that will cure all economic ills,” he said in his speech.
The plan calls for spending $90 billion on transportation programs nationwide. The Missouri Department of Transportation has about $550 million in projects ready to start now and millions more that could be ready in the next year.
Missouri Senator Bill Stouffer is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He said $60 million would be directed towards rural lettered and numbered highways. He said every rural county in the state would see at least 20 to 30 miles of road construction.
Skelton also supported and voted in favor of releasing the additional $350 billion that was approved last October that was meant for the banking and insurance industry. Former President George W. Bush has already spent $350 billion of the original approved amount of $700 billion.
Freshman Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer voted against the second $350 billion and voted against the EREA bill yesterday. He said this bill does nothing to stimulate the economy and does not do enough to address job creation and tax cuts.
“We should be planting the seeds of prosperity for real people by providing real, meaningful tax relief, supporting our small businesses and ending the practice of placing more debt on our children and grandchildren,” he said in a statement released yesterday. “In fact, this spending spree will have minimal immediate impact on improving our struggling economy.”
Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt initially supported the economic bailout last October, but like Luetkemeyer he also voted against authorizing the President to spend the additional $350 billion.
“President Obama and I agree that any plan designed to stimulate our economy must be targeted and timely,” he said in a statement released yesterday. “Unfortunately, the package mandated by the Democrat majority fails to meet either of those basic requirements.
“Just seven percent of the trillion dollars in this legislation is slated for immediate use and the rest funds everything from buying bureaucrats cars to refurbishing federal buildings,” he added. “That’s certainly not a package that will help our economy recover any time soon, but it is a package that our children and grandchildren will be repaying for generations to come.”
Blunt outlined the Republican plan on his Web site yesterday calling for more tax cuts. Their plan would reduce tax payers in the 15 percent bracket to a 10 percent rate and take those who are in the 10 percent bracket and drop them down to five percent.
The Republican plan would also exempt unemployment benefits from federal taxes.
Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Press Secretary Maria Speiser said in a statement yesterday that the Senator is pleased with the progression of the Senate version of the bill. McCaskill has said publicly the last several weeks that she will not vote for a bill that contains earmarks and is without transparency and oversight.
McCaskill sent a letter to Senate leaders on Jan. 7 requesting that more oversight be included in the bill. Two weeks ago McCaskill joined Sen. John McCain and other Senate Republicans to introduce a bi-partisan bill that would create more transparency and would require time for public review of legislation that deals with appropriations. Speiser said McCaskill is not too optimistic that bill will make it through the Senate. She said it has been referred to committee but no hearings have been held yet. McCaskill wants to see more oversight, such as strengthening the Inspector General’s powers.
Speiser said today that McCaskill has no comment on the House bill because she is focused on the Senate version, but did say she is concerned about some parts of the Senate bill.
“Claire has not made a desision because the bill is still going through a lot of changes and she does have serious concerns about it,” she said. “She thinks any stimulus should be focused on job creation.”
Sen. Kit Bond in the last couple of days has criticized the President’s plan.
“Unfortunately, this Democratic bill falls short of those goals and does much more to grow the debt and grow government, than to grow the economy,” Bond said in a statement on Tuesday. Officials from Bond’s Kansas City office did not return phone messages by press time either.

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