Obey: $825 Billion May Not Be Enough

Posted January 15, 2009 at 1:17pm

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) warned Thursday that the Democrats’ newly unveiled $825 billion stimulus proposal may not be enough to stabilize the economy.

“This product may in fact undershoot the mark,” Obey said. The economy is sinking at a rapid pace, he said, and it “could get much more serious very, very, very fast. I would not be surprised to see us go further on some of these programs down the line.”

Obey said people should not view the package “as a salvation for the economy.” A more fitting description, he said, is “the largest effort by any legislative body on the planet to try to take government action to prevent economic catastrophe.”

Democrats are aiming to mark up the bill in the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, and are hoping to bring it to the floor on Jan. 28. Already Republicans are balking at the plan, with Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) calling it excessive and charging that it will do little to turn the economy around.

From there, the Senate can take up the package the following week while the House passes an omnibus spending bill that includes leftover appropriations bills from 2008. Congress will then have one final week to resolve the stimulus package and the omnibus bill before heading into the Presidents Day recess on Feb. 13, Obey said.

Key investments in the stimulus bill include $105 billion for education, $155 billion for state governments, a 13 percent increase in food stamps and $2 billion for the ailing auto industry. Obey said there is no risk of the increased spending becoming permanent appropriations because programs can be scaled back and “people understand this is meant to be temporary money that gets you over the hump.”

House Democratic leaders have been working on the stimulus plan since Election Day, Obey said, adding that he was up until the wee hours Thursday morning putting final touches on the bill.