Thursday, January 29, 2009

House Votes Along Party Lines for Obama's $819 Billion Plan

Washington, DC returned to partisan politics as the House of Representatives passed an $819 billion economic stimulus package Wednesday on a party-line vote, despite President Obama's efforts to achieve bipartisan support for the bill. The final vote was 244 to 188; no Republicans voted for the bill, while only 11 Democrats voted against it. The Senate is likely to take up the bill next week.

One week ago, President Obama spoke of moving forward in a bipartisan manner, especially in healing the ailing economy, but the Republicans balked at signing on to the bill because they claim it lacks enough tax relief. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R - OH) said, "The underlying bill, while it has some good provisions, has a lot of wasteful provisions and slow-moving spending in it. We have to act -- we have to heal the ailing economy. The question is how to do it best; we think that fast-acting tax relief is the way to get it done."

President Obama has not given up on garnering more support before the Senate passes the bill, "I hope that we can continue to strengthen this plan before it gets to my desk. We must move swiftly and boldly to put Americans back to work, and that is exactly what this plan begins to do."

~ ~ ~

The bill has five main components:
  1. Infrastructure
    Fund the rebuilding of crumbling roads and bridges, water and sewer initiatives, and mass transit systems ($90 billion); rebuild and modernize public schools ($142 billion); weatherize low-income homes, modernize federal buildings, update the nation's electrical grid to a "smart" grid, and double production of alternative energy sources ($54 billion); modernize the health care system ($20 billion); and invest in upgraded science facilities and expand broadband Internet access in rural and underserved areas ($16 billion).

    plez sez: This was probably the area of biggest of concern to Republicans, as it may lead to large deficits and there is little or no tax benefit to businesses in this area. My concern is the length of time for these initiatives to actually begin to spur job growth around the country.

  2. Relief to States
    Increase Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage so states don't have to cut Medicaid due to budget shortfalls ($87 billion); and provide funding for law enforcement to states and municipalities ($4 billion).

    plez sez: With the number of Americans unemployed or underemployed, it is a good idea to address healthcare for them. This provision of the bill doesn't do much to spur job growth.

  3. A Safety Net
    Temporary programs to help the majority of Americans who will be devastated by the ongoing effects of the recession with an increase in unemployment insurance assistance to the states ($43 billion); Cobra tax credit to help pay for discounted health care ($39 billion); and an increase in food stamp benefits, and support for food banks, school lunch programs and WIC ($20 billion).

    plez sez: Very few people get laid off with golden parachutes and large caches of savings, this will help stem the tide of rising healthcare costs and put food on the table for millions.

  4. Tax Cuts for Individuals
    Middle-class tax cut of $500 a year for individuals and $1,000 for couples ($145 billion); low-income tax cut in the form of expanded Earned Income Tax Credit provisions ($5 billion); and an increase in the child tax credit ($18 billion).

    plez sez: For some strange reason, plezWorld never gets to take advantage of these tax cuts! I would love it if this tax cut went higher up the wage scale and increased the amount of the tax cut. And honestly, $1,000 ain't gonna go far in this economy!

  5. Tax Cuts for Businesses
    Increased small business write-offs from $125,000 to $250,000 and up to $17 billion in tax cuts (over 10 years) for businesses that lose money.

    plez sez: There isn't much in this stimulus package for businesses (only 2.7 percent of total package is allocated to business). The size of this package needs to be increased significantly to provide relief to struggling businesses. I would love to see the issue of the credit crunch and the mortgage companies addressed, as well... until the banking industry is righted (i.e., they start loaning money to individuals and businesses) this economy will continue to falter.

~ ~ ~

In Other News: Girl Scout cookies are dealing with the fallout of the recession. It won't be your imagination that it was easier to go through a box of Girl Scout cookies at one setting. The Girl Scouts of the USA confirmed Wednesday that it has reduced the number of cookies per box to save money because of rising transportation and baking costs.

The combined cost increase prompted the organization to "lower the net weight of our cookie boxes slightly rather than ask our customers to pay a higher per-package price during these difficult times," Michelle Tompkins, a national Girl Scout spokeswoman said in a written statement.

There will be two to four fewer cookies in boxes of Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbread Cookies, DoSiDos and Trefoils. The Girl Scouts also reduced the size of some cookies, but Thin Mint lovers shouldn't worry that their sweet snacks will get any slimmer: Only the Lemon Chalet Cremes will change shape.

~ ~ ~

plez sez: i agree that something must be done quickly, but the bank bailout hasn't done much for the economy, i'm skeptical about the effectiveness of an infrastructure and roads program to jumpstart the economy.

this recession may have to run its course and congress will only be able to soften the effects of the bad economy.

~ ~ ~

i had hoped that the republicans would get on-board to make this a more bipartisan effort. the democrats will have to be very careful going forward about moving their agenda, any big gaffes will make it relatively easy for the republicans to re-take both houses in mid-term elections in two years.

~ ~ Citations ~ ~

Read the Newsday article about House stimulus bill.

Read the New York Times article about partisan voting for House stimulus bill.

Read the CNN Money article about House vote on the Obama stimulus package.

Read the CNN Money article about what's in the stimulus package.

Read the article about the recession's effect on Girl Scout cookies.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No comments: