The Stimulus Bill, HR-1
The Super Bowl of Spending Games!
By Carolyn Cormey
The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,“ (HR-1) called the “Stimulus Bill or Package,” is the Super Bowl of all expenditure packages. All of us are now sitting in the stands watching the BIG GAME being played by our US Senators in Planet DC. The high stakes game may be life and death - our lives and the death of our country, as we know it. Watching C-Span this last week, we saw the US Senate “debate” amendments to the Mega-Stimulus Package (HR-1) sent over to them by the House. In case you didn’t know (or haven’t heard), Nancy Pelosi (Democrat Speaker of the House) and a few of her friends wrote the Stimulus Bill, gifting us all with massive spending programs and minimal tax cuts that would cost about $820 Billion of our dollars, which she would either kindly print for us OR borrow for us. Yep, she was quite proud of “her” Stimulus Bill and did not seek or accept any help or suggestions (or receive a single vote) from the Republicans, Nancy saying, “We won the election, we wrote the bill!”
Nancy then gift-wrapped the Stimulus Bill with the votes of 244 Democrats and sent it over to the Senate (All 177 Republicans in the House + 11 Democrats voted against the Bill).
Well, now the “adults,’ The Statesmen, our Great Deliberative Body, THE US SENATE had the Stimulus Bill and THEY were going to seriously analyze the Bill, leaving only expenditures that were “Timely, Targeted and Temporary” . . and of course would create jobs . . . and fund some extra education stuff . . . and census stuff . . and some zero emissions stuff . . and a bunch of other stuff . . . growing the Stimulus package from $820 Billion to about $934 Billion +.
On with the Game:
The “Game” was on and the Senator “teams” suited up. Out of their dug-outs, with great fan fare from their media cheerleaders, came the Democrat Senators dressed in shiny new suits of victory with “WINNERS” written across their chests. Under their arms they carried their book of rules and game-plan titled “Our Turn,” which they had written declaring themselves “WINNERS” even before the beginning the Stimulus Super Bowl Game (they only had to capture a few Republicans so that the game would not actually look like it was rigged). Out of their dug-out came the Republican Senators, crammed back into old uniforms of “fiscal responsibility” they found hanging in the backs of their closet that were un-used for the first 6 years of the Bush Administration. Across their chests “LOSERS” was emblazoned but . . . . they were going to play the game in hopes that they would at least pick up a few points before they suffered their pre-determined loss. As “’Losers,” they no longer likeed playing under the same Rules and Game Plan they also used when they had the power. The “Game” seemed far more serious when it was not viewed through the rose-colored glasses of power and the political shoe is on the other foot.
We all sat in the stands watching the game. Surprise! Boos and hoots were being hurled at both the “Winners” and the “Losers,” getting louder and louder with more joining in! The Democrat Game-Plan and Rule-Book had no contingency plan for this!
The Half-Time “Gang:”
At Half-Time 12 of the Democrat Senators + 3 of the Republican Senators burst onto the field wearing new uniforms with the word “GANG” now written across their chests! The Gang took one lap around the field and disappeared into a door leading to a room at the end of the field. The crowd cheered (or at least the boos and hoots grew softer). “The Gang” was going to do what neither the House nor the Senate could do – REALLY make the tough choices and cut from the Stimulus package any expenditures that were not “Timely, Temporary and Targeted” . . . oh yes and of course . . . would create jobs . . and some education, and other stuff.
While the “Gang” did their heavy lifting, the Stimulus Game continued with amendments that added or subtracted hundreds of thousands, millions and even billions of dollars to the Stimulus Bill. Democrat Leadership Rules: The sponsoring team for each amendment was given a whole “2 minutes” to argue in favor of their amendment and the opposing team was given a whole “2 minutes” to argue against the amendment – and then – with all the exhaustive, considered, debate to uncover unintended consequences (that could be crammed into 2 minutes per side) the vote was taken.
The Secret Weapon:
Of course, as “Winners” the Democrats now carried the secret weapon that gave them the ultimate control over the fate of all amendments, “Section 201 of Senate Continuing Resolution 21, 110th (previous) Congress”, (referred to as the Budget Resolution) which “Makes it out of order in the Senate to consider any direct spending or revenue legislation increasing or causing an on-budget deficit for the current fiscal year, the budget year, or the four or nine ensuing fiscal years.” It also says a lot of other “tough stuff” to constrict Congressional spending - BUT - It also says that 60 Senators can vote to waive or suspend the “Budget Resolution” anytime they want and they want to a lot of times. The Democrats (Winners) now control more than 60 Senate Votes and the Republicans (Losers) don’t. When the Republicans put up an amendment for tax cuts or expenditures with offsets AND the Democrats don’t want their votes recorded as voting against tax cuts or expenditures with offsets, A Democrat Senator jumps up and states that the Republican Amendment violates the “Budget Resolution,” another Democrat jumps up to second it and 60 Democrats vote that the Republican proposed tax cut or expenditures with offsets does indeed violate the “Budget Resolution” and the “violation of Budget Resolution” is the only recorded vote that takes place on that Amendment.
Republicans can jump up and claim violations of the “Budget Resolution” when Democrat Senators bring large spending amendments adding to the Stimulus Package BUT 60 Democrat Senators immediately vote to “waive” the “Budget Resolution.” There is a lot of waiving of the “Budget Resolution” that happens just about every time the Majority Party wants to spend money (we don’t have and is not budgeted for) on some project that is dear to the heart of one or more Senators who yield power and influence.
Our Florida Players, One On Each Team:
Back in the Stands – we Floridians remember that we have a home-boy player on each team, “Winner” Senator Bill Nelson and “Loser” Senator Mel Martinez. Let’s examine their votes on just a few amendment plays in the Stimulus Super Bowl Game.
- Martinez voted for the amendment to remove the $246 Million Earmark for Hollywood. Nelson voted to keep Earmark in the Stimulus Bill. (SA 109 passed, no Hollywood $$)
- Martinez voted to bar ACORN from receiving money from the Stimulus Bill. Nelson voted to allow ACORN to receive money. (SA 107 was rejected and ACORN will get $$)
- Martinez voted to require deficit reduction and spending cuts upon 2 consecutive quarters of positive GDP, Nelson votes against this (SA 278 was Rejected).
- Martinez voted to appropriate, with an offset, $5,232 Billion . . . to reconstitute military units to an acceptable readiness rating and to restock prepositioned assets and war reserve material. Nelson voted against it. (SA 262 was Rejected)
- Martinez voted to reduce income taxes for all working taxpayers who pay taxes. Nelson voted against this (SA 277 was Rejected)
- Martinez voted for the amendment to prohibit the applicability of the “Buy American” Provision. Nelson voted against it. (SA 279 was rejected – at this time “Buy American” is still in but this may change)
- Martinez voted to raise the limit of capital losses from $3,000 up to $15,000 AND to strike the 5-year carry back of general business credits. Nelson voted against this. (SA 531 was rejected, still $3,000).
Some of these Republican sponsored amendments (and others having to do with tax cuts, capital gains, inheritance tax and some redirection of expenditures) were defeated by being switched to votes to confirm violation of the Budget Resolution (the secret weapon). Democrats used their 60 votes to block/defeat OR ram through any amendments, as they choose. In control of “the Secret Weapon,” AND in control of the scheduling of amendments AND being fully aware of the limited time available – Democrats chose to take time away from the limited time available to hear amendments, choosing instead, to stuff the time with Retreats AND Signing Ceremonies AND go nowhere discussions on the process of pending amendments that (was so very obvious) they planned to leave no time to consider.
E-Verify – The Game Within The GAME:
Republican requests to bring the E-Verify Amendment to the Senate Floor for a vote were asked for early, often and ignored. (E-Verify is a simple computer inquiry that is 99% accurate in verifying the validity of a Social Security Number and the requirement for continuing to use E-Verify expires in March if no further legislation makes the requirement permanent.) The E-Verify Amendment in the Stimulus Bill would make employer use of E-Verify permanent AND make certain that Stimulus money spent on Contracts did not go those who are illegally in our country. Game Plan: The E-Verify requirement was part of the House Stimulus Bill passed by Democrat Congressmen and sent over to the Senate (wink, wink). However, if Democrat Senators don’t allow an amendment to confirm the E-Verify requirement –THEN - after the Senate passes their version of Stimulus, when it goes into “Committee” E-Verify can be quietly removed as “part of the effort” needed to blend both the House and Senate Bills. WIN/WIN - Democrat Congressmen can go home and tell their constituents, “I voted for E-Verify,” AND Democrat Senators go home and tell their constituents that they would have voted for E-Verify but they did not have the chance to AND they get to keep the good will and support of the illegal alien special interest groups AND E-Verify expires in March AND we are once again manipulated by those WE elect.
Back in the Stands:
From in the Stands, we turn our eyes back to the field and see “The Gang” running out onto the field waving their arms and claiming victory!!!! They reduced the $934 Billion by about $100 Billion (which brings it back to $838 Billion (1.2 Trillion with taxes), about 18 Billion more than it was when the House sent it over to the Senate) saying, “We REALLY made the tough choices and left in only expenditures and tax cuts that were “Timely, Temporary and Targeted” . . . oh yes and of course . . . would create jobs . . . plus better educate our children and young adults . . . . and some other stuff. WE WON AND WE CAPTURED 3 REPUBLICAN SENATORS in our “Bi-Partisan” VICTORY!
The Spoils of Victory:
Since we don’t have $838 Billion and have to borrow or print it, interest has to be paid bringing this to about 1.2 Trillion dollars, increasing our national debt by over 10% of the debt that is on our books, the debt we know about - not counting the debt we don’t know about. Do you have any idea how many “ZEROS” there are in a Trillion? There are 12 Zeros!!!! That is 1000 Billions or a 1,000,000 Millions or 10,000,000 Hundred Thousands! That’s a bucket full of money to pour out of our completely empty bucket!!!!
All of us sitting in the stands begin to leave, wondering if we should stick around for the next Game, TARP 2 (Troubled Asset Recovery Program), scheduled to immediately start, following the winning of the Stimulus Bill Game. TARP 2 will be played by the same House and Senate Players wearing the same jerseys – for another $450 Billion+ . . . . plus the Trillions (upwards of 4) in guarantees to solve Housing and Banking problems that are not yet even defined. Some of us wonder why Stimulus and TARP 2 couldn’t be played together, at the same time so that we all could get a picture of the full price tag for the whole GAME. Instead, we continue to “peace-meal,” with one GAME, following the previous GAME because the previous GAME did not solve the problem – but - the current GAME is an emergency we must pass - so we can play the next GAME!
On the way out, some of us pull out our ticket stubs and see with our own eyes what this ticket cost us, our children and their children. We look back and see lots of back slapping and celebration out on the field. The media cheerleaders are there writing their stories, filming and congratulating “The Gang” on their Bi-Partisan (3 Republican) Victory. AS our Senators continue to play GAMES, spending OUR money like PLAY money, making it into value of PLAY Money, THEIR jobs, THEIR health care insurance and THEIR retirement/pensions and THEIR futures remain secure. We go home . . . . wait . . . .wonder and worry about ours.