- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2009


As House Democratic leaders prepare to bring the economic recovery bill to the floor as early as Wednesday, Republicans are accusing them of steamrolling the legislation through Congress without hearings or an opportunity for bipartisan input.

Left with few options, House Republicans are meeting with Mr. Obama next week in hopes of getting a say in the legislation before it’s brought to a vote.

“We still think that there’s time to influence the final product here,” Minority Leader John A. Boehner said Thursday.

The $825 billion package, introduced by congressional Democrats one week ago; cleared the Appropriations, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees this week in votes along party lines, paving the way to the House floor. The bill is intended to jump-start the economy by funding a slew of projects that Democratic leaders say would create or save up to 4 million jobs.

Democrats say the deepening recession requires lawmakers to act as quickly as possible.

“Today this committee has a big job,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said at the panel’s markup Thursday. “We are in a deep and long recession. Our unemployment rate is over 7 percent and growing. We urgently need a an economic recovery package - and we need it immediately.”

But Republicans have complained that their concerns about the bill are being ignored.

“I think this has all been preordained,” said Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, which marked up the bill Thursday. “This is the bill [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] wanted, this is the bill the speaker’s going to get and this is the bill we’ll vote on the floor but there really hasn’t been the kind of meaningful exchange that President Obama has called for.”

Still, Republican leaders continue to say they’re taking Mr. Obama at his word when he asked for their input earlier this month.

But not everyone is as hopeful that next week’s meeting between House Republicans and Mr. Obama - a date and time for which has not been set - will make a difference.

“He’ll talk to us and he’ll listen with a big smile, but as far as curtailing the spending … I don’t see it,” said Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican.

In Mr. Waxman’s committee, Democratic Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Bruce Braley successfully earmarked $500 million in the bill for biofuels development.

Rep. Jay Inslee, Washington Democrat, previously considered as a contender for a top spot in the Obama administration successfully amended the bill to prioritize funding for existing state energy programs rather than new projects.

Republicans in all three committees struggled to have any amendments passed and criticized the lack of hearings.

“I think it is an abomination that a bill that is 269 pages long is going to be the subject of a one-day markup and no hearing,” said Rep. Joe L. Barton, ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

In Ways and Means, Mr. Camp said he worried Congress would make the same mistake of rushing the stimulus bill that it did with the $700 billion financial bailout, which has been criticized for its lack of oversight. He cited competing estimates of between $200,000 and $400,000 being spent in the package per job it is supposed to create.

“We really couldn’t get a handle on what this might do in terms of creating jobs, what it might do for the benefit of the economy, would it cause economic growth or not,” he said.

Mrs. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders say they remain committed to sending an economic plan to the president by their mid-February congressional break.

Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.

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