Thursday, February 12, 2009

Michigan Rep. Dave Camp Frozen out of Stimulus Bill Conference Committee

I just got off the phone with House Representative Dave Camp's office. Rep. Camp was supposed to be a member of the Conference Committee on the Stimulus Bill and I was calling to see if the so called "health care" provision had been removed from Bill

I was unable to get that information because Rep. Camp didn't take part in the conference. According to his office he was "frozen out" of any decision making. As reported in the Midland Daily News

I also called the other Republican House Rep. Jerry Lewis (CA) who was supposed to be on the Conference Committee also to confirm and was told this

There were two meetings called by the chairman, Senator Daniel Inouye (D- HI) The Republicans Reps were allowed to make a statement at these meetings, the bill was never discussed. Both meetings were adjourned without any input from Republican other than the statements. The Bill was debated behind closed doors by the Democrats only.

It was then announced a "compromise" was made and the bill was ready to be voted on.

The Republicans, and it is my understanding at this time, Republican Senators included had no input on the debate or the decision making of the final so called compromise!

This is outrageous! Every American who is represented by a Republican was not represented in the process. We were "frozen out"

This my friends is an example of how this administration intends to work. Chicago politics on a national scale.

And as Nancy Pelosi hissed, "WE won"

Fox News eyewitness piece to what went on at the conference

Statement of House Appropriations
Ranking Member Jerry Lewis
Stimulus Conference
February 11, 2009

As we gather for this House-Senate conference we still don’t have very much information on this package. We have no table showing the total amount of spending for the whole bill, for each department, or even for each Appropriations subcommittee, let alone the other direct spending and tax provisions.

Press reports say the number is $789.5 billion with discretionary spending between $315 billion and $320 billion. Based on the information given to my staff, we only show $311 billion. Throughout the day, subcommittees have been directed to change numbers, though ostensibly the conference notes reflect final agreements. I think the conferees need to know what we’re considering.

While Members and Senators have notes in front of them, none have been provided to our staff. At this point, we have no idea if what we’re considering is what our staff has told us was dictated to the conferees in the wee hours of this morning.

In the notes, there are a large number of items with the annotation “HWA” which usually means modified language from what was in either bill. However, not only do the notes fail to give the Members of this conference committee any indication of what the language should look like, none of our staff has even seen the language. I am told that much of this language has not even been written yet.

These are not small language issues. We are talking about literally dozens of pages of bill language creating, among other things, many new government programs.

It’s absolutely essential that we see the actual bill language before we move forward. Some of the changes now under consideration might make these programs better, some more objectionable.

Further, it appears that a number of items in the conference agreement are well outside the scope of this conference. For example, I cannot understand how this agreement could include highway funding at a level lower than the House level. This bill has been sold as an infrastructure and stimulus bill and yet highway funding has been cut. Who made this decision?

At the same time, I don’t understand how this agreement arrived at an $8 BILLION funding level for high speed rail. The Senate had $2 billion, the House had zero and yet the conference is recommending $8 billion for this new program. Could the Chairman tell me on what basis this number was determined?

It has also come to my attention that the conference agreement includes entirely new programs not in either bill – such as a new $450 million program for AMTRAK transit security. What exactly is its purpose and what are we doing with this money?

In addition, this agreement includes $1.5 billion for a new program – Discretionary Grants for a National Surface Transportation System. As much as I respect the new Secretary, I question why we would establish a new program when the existing highway program serves all 50 states and can get this money out the door immediately to the areas that can use it.

Therefore, it seems to me that there are a number of matters that we need to discuss today. While the press has reported that this is a “bless the agreement” meeting, it appears the agreement is not yet done.

So, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that we begin by going through the notes line by line—or perhaps run through all of the open items—so we know the disposition of each of the items before us and define the universe of open items. If we cannot come to closure on these items—complete with written language—I would ask Chairman Inouye to reconvene this meeting to resolve those items.

Lastly, I’d like to ask Chairman Obey whether it’s his intent to adhere to the Motion to Instruct that was unanimously adopted in the House yesterday. That motion requires that the conferees have access to the final text of the conference agreement 48 hours prior to the final conference report being filed in the House. I’m happy to yield to Chairman Obey for his response.

Thank you.

Jim Specht
Deputy Chief of Staff
Congressman Jerry Lewis
(202) 225-5861

1 comment:

reland1 said...

If I didn't KNOW better, I would call this unbelievable! MY Lord, if people haven't gotten the message by now, they won't.
Great article.