ARRP Passes House Vote Without GOP, Senate Considers Stimulus Package Next Week
This week, the House passed its version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R.1) by a near party-line vote and the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees marked up the upper chamber’s bill (S.1).
Despite President Obama’s lobbying efforts, not a single House Republican voted in support of the stimulus bill that provides for $819 billion in domestic spending and tax cuts and incentives. For example, the House bill contains tax cuts in the amount of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples and over $300 billion in aid to states to help rebuild schools, provide healthcare, and invest in infrastructure. The House must now await action by the Senate which will consider the measure on the floor next week.
Unlike the House, the Senate’s $887 billion version contains a one-year patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for 2009 and its inclusion is expected to draw some GOP support. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was the lone Republican that voted to favorably report the bill out of the Senate Finance Committee, while four GOP senators voted to report the bill out of the Appropriations Committee, perhaps ending any prospect of a successful filibuster. President Obama has already met with Senate Republicans in an effort to obtain broad support for the package and it remains to be seen how he will further his lobbying efforts to drum up the 80-vote majority he publicly desires.
It is expected that the Senate will pass the stimulus legislation next week and will thereafter be subject to a conference committee to resolve the bill’s differences with the House version. It appears that the package remains on track to be cleared for the president’s signature by Presidents Day, a date both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pledged to support.
On Wednesday, January 28, 2009, the House of Representatives adopted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 by a final vote of 244-188. Eight of the 11 amendments that were allowed by the rule were adopted. No Republicans voted in favor of the package, while 11 Democrats voted against it.
Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) offered an amendment to incorporate a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision to aviation, highway, rail, and transit portions of the Act. The Oberstar amendment would require that 50 percent of the funds distributed by these sections of the bill be obligated in 90 days. The amendment passed by voice vote, changing the original 180 day timeframe.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) offered a provision to require that demonstration projects receiving funding from H.R. 1 utilize Internet-based or other open protocols and standards if available and appropriate, and that grants recipients utilized Interne-based or other open protocols and standards. The amendment was agreed to by voice vote.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) proposed adding language to the Act that would clarify that federal funds received by the States under the bill for highway maintenance shall not be used to replace existing funds in place for transportation projects. Rep. Schuster’s amendment was agreed to by the House on a voice vote.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) offered an amendment that would increase transit spending in the bill to a total of $12 billion, $3 billion more than the originally provided for in the legislation. Of the additional $3 billion, half would be directed to New Starts and half towards 5307 transit assistance funds. The amendment was adopted by voice vote.
The House adopted, by voice vote, an amendment proposed by Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) that would require the Department of Homeland Security to purchase American-made uniforms for the Transportation Security Administration.
An amendment proposed by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Platts (R-PA) strengthened whistleblower protection for federal employees. The House adopted the amendment by a voice vote.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) offered an amendment that would allow the job training funds contained in the stimulus bill to be used for broadband deployment and related activities. The House adopted the amendment by voice vote.
The House adopted, by voice vote, an amendment proposed by Rep. Harry Teague (D-NM) that requires the Recovery.gov website to contain information on accessing job information created at or by entities receiving funding under the bill.
The House rejected, on a vote carried by the nays 320-116, an amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that would have removed funding for Amtrak from the bill.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) offered an amendment that would strike all spending provisions from the bill. The amendment was rejected on vote carried by the nays 382-134.
The House also rejected an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) on behalf of the GOP. This substitute amendment would replace the existing H.R. 1 language with provisions lowering taxes and extending unemployment benefits. The amendment was rejected on a roll call vote carried by the nays 266-170.
Finally, the House rejected, by a vote of 270-159, a motion to recommit the bill, introduced by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA).
Senate Appropriations Committee
On January 27, 2009, the Senate Appropriations Committee convened to markup its portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (S.1). The committee voted 21-9 to report its $365.6 billion section of the bill without adopting any amendments. All 17 committee Democrats and four committee Republicans (Ranking Member Cochran [MS], Specter [PA], Bond [MO] and Collins [ME]) voted to report the bill.
Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) discouraged committee members from introducing amendments to the bill during the markup. Instead, he instructed Senators to introduce amendments when the legislation reached the Senate floor. As a result, committee members introduced only three amendments during the markup (all of which were ultimately withdrawn) and the vast majority of the markup consisted of statements from the members.
Democrats used their opening remarks to outline the struggles of the American economy and explain the ameliorative effects of the stimulus legislation. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) argued that the bill is too small to reverse the current economic down turn.
All of the Democrats on the committee discussed the virtues of the programs funded by the bill. They argued that new spending on education, healthcare, and infrastructure will not only create jobs contemporaneously but promote higher rates of economic growth in the future.
Committee Republicans stressed their desire to use government resources to help dampen the effects of the economic downturn, but expressed their doubts about the efficacy of the stimulus legislation as it currently constructed. Republicans had four main complaints about the bill: that it has not followed the regular legislative process (“regular order”); it is too expensive; many of the funds appropriated by the legislation will not be spent until 2011 or later; and the funds dispersed by the bill are not targeted to job creating and economy stimulating measures.
Senate Finance Committee
On January 27, 2009, the Senate Finance Committee met to markup the tax and healthcare sections of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (S.1). The committee favorably reported the chairman’s mark by a vote of 14-9. Democrats were united in support for the legislation while Senator Olympia Snowe broke ranks with her Republican colleagues to vote in the affirmative.
The Democrats used their opening statements to praise the legislation for its provisions that promise to spur job creation, promote economic growth, and allow the unemployed to retain their health insurance. Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) called the legislation “the best chance for economic recovery.” While Republicans agreed that the current economic climate renders quick congressional action necessary, they charged that the bill was too costly, did not spend the funds quickly enough, included provisions that will have no effect on the economy, did not contain sufficient tax relief, and was drafted without adequate input from the opposition. The legislation contains a $142 billion payroll tax credit for individuals and couples, as well as more than $30 billion in tax incentives for energy production and conservation.
Republicans attempted to attach a series of amendments that aimed to expand tax cuts for businesses. Though they were stymied by the Democratic majority, Republicans were able to adopt an amendment that would patch the AMT for one year, a provision that may attract more GOP support when the legislation is considered on the Senate floor next week.
Notice: The purpose of this newsletter is to identify select developments that may be of interest to readers. The information contained herein is abridged and summarized from various sources, the accuracy and completeness of which cannot be assured. This alert should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.