Ben Ray Lujan on Budget & Economy
Opponent's Argument for voting No:Rep. MAFFEI: The American people want us to work together--Republicans and Democrats--to reduce our debt, pay our bills, and avoid an economic catastrophe, which would result from default. This legislation presumes it will happen and maps out not if but what happens when the United States defaults. Their plan ensures that foreign creditors such as China, Japan, and OPEC countries Iran and Saudi Arabia would continue to get paid while we halt other payments to groups of Americans who have earned those benefits. This bill prioritizes Chinese lenders ahead of American seniors and veterans and college students. That's why it's called the Pay China First Act.
White House statement in opposition:American families do not get to choose which bills to pay and which ones not to pay, and the United States Congress cannot either without putting the nation into default for the first time in its history. This bill would threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, cost American jobs, hurt businesses of all sizes and do damage to the economy. It would cause the nation to default on payments for Medicare, veterans, national security and many other critical priorities. This legislation is unwise, unworkable, and unacceptably risky."
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Biggert, R-IL]: The HAMP Termination Act would put an end to the poster child for failed Federal foreclosure programs. The program has languished for 2 years, hurt hundreds of thousands of homeowners, and must come to an end. This bill would save $1.4 billion over 10 years. To date, the HAMP program has already consumed $840 million of the more than $30 billion of TARP funds that were set aside for the program. For this extraordinary investment, the administration predicted that 3 to 4 million homeowners would receive help. HAMP has hurt more homeowners than it has helped. The program has completed about 540,000 mortgage modifications. Another 740,000 unlucky homeowners had their modifications cancelled.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Capuano, D-MA]: This is a program that I'm the first to admit has not lived up to what our hopes were. This program we had hoped would help several million people. Thus far we've only helped about 550,000 people. But to simply repeal all of these programs is to walk away from individual homeowners, walk away from neighborhoods. I'm not going to defend every single aspect of this program, and I am happy to work with anyone to make it better, to help more people to keep their homes, & keep their families together. To simply walk away without offering an alternative means we don't care; this Congress doesn't care if you lose your home, period. Now, I understand if that makes me a bleeding-heart liberal according to some people, so be it.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. LEWIS (D, GA-5): This bipartisan bill will provide the necessary funds to keep important transportation projects operating in States around the country. The Highway Trust Fund will run out of funding by September. We must act, and we must act now.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. CAMP (R, MI-4): [This interim spending is] needed because the Democrats' economic policy has resulted in record job loss, record deficits, and none of the job creation they promised. Democrats predicted unemployment would top out at 8% if the stimulus passed; instead, it's 9.5% and rising. In Michigan, it's above 15%. The Nation's public debt and unemployment, combined, has risen by a shocking 40% [because of] literally trillions of dollars in additional spending under the Democrats' stimulus, energy, and health plans.
We had a choice when it came to the stimulus last February. We could have chosen a better policy of stimulating private-sector growth creating twice the jobs at half the price. That was the Republican plan. Instead, Democrats insisted on their government focus plan, which has produced no jobs and a mountain of debt.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. PETER WELCH (D, VT-0): Citigroup supports this bill. Why? They're a huge lender. They understand that we have to stabilize home values in order to begin the recovery, and they need a tool to accomplish it. Mortgages that have been sliced and diced into 50 different sections make it impossible even for a mortgage company and a borrower to come together to resolve the problem that they share together.
Sen. DICK DURBIN (D, IL): 8.1 million homes face foreclosure in America today. Last year, I offered this amendment to change the bankruptcy law, and the banking community said: Totally unnecessary. In fact, the estimates were of only 2 million homes in foreclosure last year. America is facing a crisis.
Opponent's argument to vote No:
Sen. JON KYL (R, AZ): This amendment would allow bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages by lowering the principal and interest rate on the loan or extending the term of the loan. The concept in the trade is known as cram-down. It would apply to all borrowers who are 60 days or more delinquent. Many experts believe the cram-down provision would result in higher interest rates for all home mortgages. We could end up exacerbating this situation for all the people who would want to refinance or to take out loans in the future.
Rep. MICHELE BACHMANN (R, MN-6): Of the foundational policies of American exceptionalism, the concepts that have inspired our great Nation are the sanctity of private contracts and upholding the rule of law. This cramdown bill crassly undercuts both of these pillars of American exceptionalism. Why would a lender make a 30-year loan if they fear the powers of the Federal Government will violate the very terms of that loan?
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. DAVID OBEY (D, WI-7): This country is facing what most economists consider to be the most serious and the most dangerous economic situation in our lifetimes. This package today is an $825 billion package that does a variety of things to try to reinflate the economy:
Opponent's argument to vote No:
Rep. JERRY LEWIS (R, CA-51): Most of us would agree that the recent $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is an illustration of how good intentions don't always deliver desired results. When Congress spends too much too quickly, it doesn't think through the details and oversight becomes more difficult. The lesson learned from TARP was this: we cannot manage what we do not measure. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.
Sen. THAD COCHRAN (R, MS): We are giving the executive branch immense latitude in the disbursement of the spending this bill contains. We are doing so without any documentation of how this spending will stimulate the economy. Normally, this kind of information would be contained in an administration budget. For items that have a short-term stimulative effect, most of us will feel comfortable debating their merits as an emergency measure. But there is a great deal of spending that is not immediately stimulative.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. BARNEY FRANK (D, MA-4): Last year, after we responded to the urgent pleas of the Bush administration to authorize the $700 billion deployment of Federal funds to unstick the credit markets, many of us became very unhappy, [because Bush] repudiated commitments to use a significant part of the fund to diminish foreclosures. If we do not pass this bill today, we will make no progress in what is the single biggest economic problem we've been facing, namely, the foreclosure crisis.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. RON PAUL (R, TX-14): There has been a lot of money spent to try to bail out the financial industry, and nothing seems to be working. I think it's mainly because we haven't admitted that excessive spending can cause financial problems, & excessive debt and inflation can cause problems.
Actually, the recession is therapy for all of the mistakes, but the mistakes come, basically, from a Federal Reserve system that's causing too many people to make mistakes. Interest rates are lower than they should be, so they don't save. That contributes to what we call "moral hazard" as well as the system of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac system. With the assumption that we're all going to be bailed out, people say, "Well, no sweat because, if there is a mistake, the government will come to our rescue." A private FDIC would never permit this massive malinvestment. There would be regulations done in the marketplace, and there would not be this distortion that we've ended up with.
NPR summary of HR133:
Argument in opposition: Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV-2) said after voting against H.R. 133: "Congress voted to spend another $2.3 trillion [$900 billion for COVID relief], which will grow our national debt to about $29 trillion. The federal government will again have to borrow money from nations like China. This massive debt is being passed on to our children and grandchildren. With multiple vaccines on the way thanks to President Trump and Operation Warp Speed, we do not need to pile on so much additional debt. Now is the time to safely reopen our schools and our economy. HR133 was another 5593-page bill put together behind closed doors and released moments prior to the vote."
Legislative outcome: Passed House 327-85-18, Roll #250, on Dec. 21. 2020; Passed Senate 92-6-2, Roll #289, on Dec. 21; signed by President Trump on Dec 27 [after asking for an increase from $600 to $2,000 per person, which was introduced as a separate vote].
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