McConnell Seeks to Slow Stimulus Push

Posted December 29, 2008 at 2:50pm

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Monday threw cold water on Democratic hopes of passing a massive economic stimulus package in time for President-elect Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration, exactly two weeks after the 111th Congress convenes for the new year.

With estimates for the stimulus package reaching as high as $1 trillion, McConnell called on his Senate colleagues to proceed with caution, hold a series of hearings and dedicate at least one week for public review.

“I understand the Democrat leadership would like to move this as-yet unwritten, trillion-dollar spending bill in less than two weeks, [but] it has not yet been explained how the spending bill can receive adequate oversight and review in such a short period of time,” McConnell said in a statement.

McConnell said any stimulus bill approved by Congress has to strike “the right mix of tax relief and other measures to grow the economy.” He added that the package must stimulate the country’s financial sectors rather than simply serve as another spending package.

“This will require the consideration of alternative ideas, public Congressional hearings and transparency — not a rushed, partisan take-it-or-leave-it approach,” McConnell warned. “Taxpayers, already stretched to the limit, deserve nothing less.”

In his own statement released Monday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called on Democrats “to guarantee that such a bill will not be brought to the floor of the House unless there have been public hearings in the appropriate committees, the entire text has been available online for the American people to review for at least one week, and it includes no special-interest earmarks.”

Congressional aides said details of the stimulus package are still in flux, although funding could be included for public works projects, tax relief for the middle class, alternative energy programs and health care.

Previous estimates reached $850 billion for the bill, although more recent projections have ascended north to $1 trillion. Top Obama adviser David Axelrod said during a Sunday appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the bill could reach between $675 billion and $775 billion.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Democratic colleagues in an e-mail sent just before the holiday break that the stimulus package should be ready for Obama “as close to Jan. 20th as possible.” Liaisons on Obama’s transition team have been in talks with Congressional leaders on the package, which has become the dominant priority for the president-elect.

“Sen. Reid understands that the only way that we can do so is with the cooperation of Senate Republicans, and he intends to work on a bipartisan basis to pass an economic recovery package,” a Reid spokeswoman said of the upcoming debate.