House Dem tells constituent he read all of stimulus

One of the biggest Republican criticisms of President Obama's economic stimulus bill was how quickly it was sped through Congress, giving few members enough time to read the hefty bill.

Now, it appears that at least one Democrat is telling constituents that he read all of the 1,073-page bill, including the changes in the conference version, in the short run up to the vote.

In an email to a constituent obtained by the BBR, Congressman John Tierney (D-Mass.) said he read the $787 billion stimulus bill in its entirety.

"I did indeed read the entire bill, as did members of my staff," Tierney wrote in the email dated March 24. "We were versed on the changes to the bill as they occurred, as was necessary in order for us to ensure participation and an opinion on its overall merits as it made its way through the legislative process."

Tierney also said that the bill wasn't as rushed as it was portrayed in the media. "Of course, contrary to assertions made by bill opponents (who, incidentally, failed to offer any viable alternatives) and by media often caught up in spreading confusion, there was ample time to read the bill."

The bill, Tierney wrote, took "considerable time over weeks" to make it to the final vote on February 13.

When contacted by the BBR, Tierney's office said it may have exaggerated how closely the congressman reviewed the legislation.

"On review, the congressman is of the view it may well have overstated the case," said Tierney spokeswoman Catherine Ribeiro. "The office did review the bill and various aspects of it over time and revisited portions that were thought significant. It should not have implied that every measure of every change was caught, and surely there were implications in some language that may have been missed."

Ribeiro added that the intent of the letter was to show that the congressman disagreed with the criticism of how quicky the bill made its way through Congress.

"While some may have opposed the bill, the Congressman did not believe lack of time was a valid reason, rather it seemed to be serving as a proxy for those who failed to offer an alternative," she said.

By most accounts, though, the stimulus got through Congress at a faster than normal speed as lawmakers headed toward Presidents Day recess in the middle of February. After the Senate version of the bill passed on Tuesday, Feb. 10, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced the next day that a compromise bill had been reached with the House. At that point, several Democrats, including Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who was one of the House Democrats selected to negotiate the final version, said they not had a chance to review the measure. The final version of the bill was not released until late the night before the Friday vote.

After seeing the email, Massachusetts GOP spokesman Barney Keller criticized Tierney for backing legislation that contained a provision allowing the American International Group to dole out bonuses with taxpayer funded bailout money - a similar line of attack that national Republicans have recently used toward Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

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