McConnell Urges Caution in Debate on Economic Stimulus Measure
Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants to slow consideration of the economic stimulus package Democrats are drafting, warning that the measure sought by President-elect Barack Obama invites wasteful spending
“A trillion-dollar spending bill would be the largest spending bill in the history of our country at a time when our national debt is already the largest in history,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement. “As a result, it will require tough scrutiny and oversight. Taxpayers, already stretched to the limit, deserve nothing less.”
McConnell called for giving lawmakers and the public at least one week to review the legislation once it has been written. He also said he wanted Senate committee hearings on the measure, rather than immediate floor consideration.
His demand, in a Senate where minority Republicans will still have the power to block legislation, could stall a drive by Democrats to approve legislation soon after Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Obama advisers and congressional Democrats estimate the stimulus package, expected to include new infrastructure spending and tax cuts, may total $850 billion. Some economists are recommending as much as $1 trillion to boost the sagging economy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, says her goal is to send legislation to Obama on the day of his inauguration. A spokesman for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said today that, because he will need some Republican support to approve the legislation, the timing of Senate action is unclear.
“It remains to be seen” when the Senate will consider the package, Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. “It all depends on what cooperation we get from Senate Republicans.”
McConnell’s party will have at least 41 Senate seats next year, giving it the power to filibuster legislation or delay it with unlimited debate. He said he wants to closely scrutinize the stimulus proposal to make sure individual projects and tax breaks truly spark economic growth.
“We must make distinctions between what is ‘stimulus’ -- defined by Speaker Pelosi earlier this year as ‘timely, targeted and temporary’ -- and what is merely more government spending on favored projects we don’t need with money we don’t have,” McConnell said.
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said today he has reservations about the size of the plan. He also called for hearings on it and at least a week of publicly available text for taxpayers to review. In the House the minority party doesn’t have as much power as in the Senate to stall legislation.