Stimulus plan riles state’s Republicans

Feb 08, 2009
In The News

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma Republicans on Saturday came out against a compromise on a massive economic package of spending and tax relief designed to stimulate the nation’s ailing economy.

"It is just outrageous,” U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said of the agreement announced Friday on the $827 billion measure.  "The amounts are just obscene.”

Inhofe conceded, however, that the proposal, which grew out of a push by President Barack Obama, will have the necessary votes to get past any procedural hurdles thrown up by opponents.

Rep. Dan Boren, the state’s lone Democrat in Congress and the only Oklahoman to vote for the House version, welcomed the Senate compromise.

"We are moving in the right direction by cutting some of the extraneous spending that’s in the bill,” Boren said.  "I still remain supportive of doing something in the wake of some of the worst economic times that we have seen in generations.”

He also expressed hope that even more changes could be made once the two versions get into conference.

"I would like to see more Republicans on board for this bill,” Boren said.

All four Oklahoma Republicans in the House — John Sullivan, Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and Mary Fallin — voted against their chamber’s version of the package and expressed opposition to the Senate compromise.

Sullivan said spending on highways and other infrastructure should be increased in the package.

On the tax side, he said, more needs to be done to help individuals and small businesses. "They need something immediately,” Sullivan said.

He suggested a change in the payroll tax could provide the kind of meaningful relief that is needed. "That is something we see on the paycheck,” Sullivan said.

Cole said a temporary phase out of both the payroll tax and the capital gains tax should be considered.

On the spending side, Cole said, the agreement in the Senate does not go far enough to ease his skepticism that some of the so-called temporary programs will become permanent.

"There are still too many longtime programs that we are going to fund for two years,” he said.

Fallin said the bill as written will not win her vote, adding it does not do enough to create jobs, cut taxes or improve infrastructure.

"President Obama’s promise of tax cuts were actually scaled back,” she said.

The bill "still has an enormous amount of spending and new debt, around $820 billion, approximately the same amount as the bill that came through the House.”

Lucas said that while the Senate compromise does include improvements, it still is filled with too many pork projects and not enough job creation provisions to justify its huge cost.

Sen. Tom Coburn did not comment Saturday but made his position clear late Friday when he again called the package a "generational theft” bill.

Given the make-up of the Senate, where Democrats expanded their majority considerably in last year’s elections, it was not likely that any changes made in that chamber would be enough to draw the support of Oklahoma Republicans.

Inhofe dismissed the compromise worked out by a small bipartisan group of senators as "cover” for those who want to vote for a package.

The agreement in the Senate is expected to get its first procedural vote on Monday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hopes to send it to the joint conference on Tuesday.

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