- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2009

UPDATED:

Key Republican senators charged Tuesday that President Obama’s economic stimulus package does not do enough fast enough to turn around the recession-bound economy and planned to amend it by cutting more taxes and lowering 30-year mortgage rates to 4 percent.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said shortly after the opening of the second day of debate on the $885 billion stimulus bill that the “spending portion is way too big” and that the legislation needs to be simplified so that it has an immediate impact on the economy.

“The stimulus package ought to do something right now that stimulates the economy,” he said. What was needed, he added, is a “simple, more targeted stimulus bill that gets at the root of the problem.” That root, he said, is housing.

Senate Republicans planned to amend the legislation is accord with Mr. Obama’s statement that he was willing to listen to GOP ideas in order to get Congress to adopt a bipartisan stimulus package. The House passed an $819 billion stimulus bill last week without any Republican voting in favor of it.

Republicans want more tax cuts and other financial incentives in the package, arguing they would put money in the hands of consumers more quickly than the long-range plans by the Democrats to create jobs by rebuilding the infrastructure of the country, including roads, bridges, schools and the greening of federal buildings.

The Democratic plan envisions creating 3 million to 4 million jobs by spending on renewable energy, health care and education as well as infrastructure projects. But Republicans expressed concern that such spending will result in a massive deficit, charging that the stimulus bill would cost $1.3 trillion, interest payments included.

Mr. Obama has said he would like to sign the legislation by Presidents’ Day, Feb. 16.

“The public knows what’s going on here,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and ranking member of the Finance Committee. “They see this as a big spending bill, not a stimulus bill.”

“We should not legislate in a hasty manner,” he said. “We cannot casually deficit-spend and ask taxpayers to pay for it with higher taxes” in the future.

Mr. Grassley said that most Republicans agree with Mr. Obama that a stimulus package is necessary but that “where we differ between the parties is whether it ought to be government or the private sector” that creates jobs. “On our side, we want the jobs to come from the private sector.”

Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, said a $25 billion investment in rebuilding the infrastructure would create 655,000 new jobs.

“Investing in construction is the tried and true way to put people back to work,” she said.

Mr. McConnell said the House-passed version of the stimulus package does not do enough to stimulate the economy immediately.

“The immediate impact is quite deficient,” he said.

The Kentucky Republican indicated he planned to offer an amendment to the legislation that would create government-backed 30-year mortgages at interest rates of 4 percent that would drop current mortgage payments by $400 a month for a savings of nearly $5,000 a year. Current mortgage rates are about 5.3 percent.

In addition, Mr. McConnell said, there should be reductions of income taxes for married couples that would save them $500.

Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, said the burden on the economy “could be far worse if we don’t take bold and immediate action. This bill…begins to move us in the right direction.”

The goal of the stimulus package, he said, is jobs.

“Let’s keep that goal in mind — jobs,” he said. “That’s what we want to do with this bill.”


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