Economy & Budget

Utilizing Unused Resources in Deep Ocean (Rep. John Shimkus)

The American people were justifiably outraged last year as Congressional leadership continued its No-Energy Policy amid gas prices that climbed over $4 per gallon. We were able to claim a small victory when the offshore drilling ban was allowed to expire. That victory, however, may be short-lived, as the Obama Administration reviews the five-year offshore drilling plan.

Revise Meat Country of Origin Labeling Standards (Sen. Byron Dorgan)

The concept behind COOL is a simple one. When American consumers go to the grocery store to buy a cut of meat, they should have the right to know whether it was produced here in America or in a country with fewer health and safety standards. But these rules allow processors to put a meaningless ‘multiple country’ label on virtually any cut of meat. Clearly, this was an effort to coddle the meatpacking industry and circumvent the intent of Congress. I hope the new Administration will do the right thing and implement a COOL program that will stand up for American consumers and ranchers.

Economy Has Americans Asking Tough Questions about Higher Education

Both federal and state governments have been taking a hard look at
higher education lately, talking about everything from access and
accountability to financial aid and endowments. And higher education is
talking back, complaining about more regulation and a declining share of
state funding. Which side does the public support? Although,
traditionally the public has been positive about higher education, new
Public Agenda research shows that the current economic crisis may also
be feeding a greater public willingness to hold higher education’s feet
to the fire.

Changing economic realities are driving a shift in public attitudes on
higher education. On the one hand, there is a dramatic increase in the
number of people who think that having a college degree is absolutely
essential for success. Only a minority (43%) now think that there are
many ways to succeed without a college degree, down from 67% who felt
this way only eight years ago. Colleges will certainly welcome that trend.

Obama Big Spending Bill Stimulates Anti-Christian Bigotry

President Obama’s stimulus plan is being used to restrict the free exercise of religion in public facilities where federal funding is involved.  Among the prohibited uses of “greening” funds is the “modernization, renovation or repair” of higher learning facilities where sectarian religious activities or services may be conducted. (S.336 Section 803, page 164). The economic crisis is being used as a pretext to curb religious liberty at institutions of higher learning.  Religious activity is already scarce at most of our colleges, the Obama people want to make sure it is extinct.

The ultimate impact will be to drive religious activities out of public education altogether. If higher education institutions worry about not getting part of this federal grab bag, they’ll simply eject religious activities from their campuses so they can easily get the money. By rejecting religion, these educators can also avoid costly ACLU lawsuits that will inevitably be filed. This section of the bill should be called the ACLU Full Employment Act since it will be a boon for their anti-Christian litigation.

Religious Discrimination -- Not Economic Stimulus

There's a little-known provision in the economic stimulus package that is most troubling - a discriminatory provision that prohibits higher education facilities that accept federal stimulus funds from permitting religious groups and organizations from using those facilities.

The provision states that grants awarded under Section 803 "shall be for the purpose of modernizing, renovating, and repairing institution of higher education facilities that are primarily used for instruction and research..." The measure states that funds may not be used for the "modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities--(i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or (ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission."

Transportation Infrastructure, A Key For Job Creation

As the Senate tackles the economic stimulus bill this week, lawmakers are attempting to build more transportation project funding into the legislation. Additional highway funding and mass transit amendments will be debated in the next several days. The only funding amendment that passed in the House of Representatives last week was additional support for mass transit.

One of the best ways to get money into the hands of working people is to make sure there are good jobs with good wages. And by investing in our country’s transportation infrastructure, we not only put people to work, but also address critical needs.

E-Verify is An Essential Tool For Employers (Rep. Jeff Fortenberry)

Congress should push for expedited compliance with employment verification standards, particularly during these challenging times.  I am encouraged that an amendment to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was proposed to ascertain the lawful eligibility of employees of the companies receiving stimulus funds.  Verifying that essential jobs such as federal contracting be conducted by a legal workforce should be a top priority as we work to restore economic opportunity.

American People in Need of Economic Rescue

As the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is debated in the Senate this week it is crucial that Congress considers the real world effects their actions will have on hard working Americans and our economy.

All across America families are losing their jobs, their health care, their homes and their pensions. Their situation is dire and they cannot afford to wait while people obstruct in Washington.

THE BIG QUESTION, Feb. 3: Do Dems Need Bipartisanship?

The Big Question is a feature where influential lawmakers, pundits and interest group leaders give their answers to a question that’s driving discussion in news circles around the country.

Some responses are gathered via e-mail, while others are gathered in person via tape recorder.

Today’s Big Question is:
Given Democrats' grip on power, is there any need for them to seek Republican votes in favor of the stimulus?

See responses below from Sen. Carl Levin, Dr. Larry J. Sabato, Sen. Jim Webb, Dean Baker, Ron Bonjean, Bertha Lewis, Sen. Robert Casey, and Sen. Russ Feingold.

See the last Big Question here.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said:
Yeah, there is. I think it may even be subject to 60 votes. We're trying to find that out. I think you have to have 60 votes to get the package passed.

Response obtained in person at the Capitol via digital recorder.

Dr. Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said:
Elections matter. Whenever Republicans have won, their Presidents got one or more big-ticket items during the honeymoon. The Democrats won big in November 2008, and they can shape the stimulus as they please. In the final analysis, this is what they will do, and there is no vote-counting ‘need’ to seek GOP support... Read the full response

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) said:
I'm one of probably 8 or 9 Democrats who are trying to take a very cautious approach on this overall number, and I would hope Republicans would join us when we come up with some proposals.

Response obtained in person at the Capitol via digital recorder.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:
The need is to quickly pass a stimulus package that will boost the economy. If Republicans are willing to support such a package, that would be great. Obviously, this could mean some deals... Read the full response

Ron Bonjean, president of The Bonjean Company said:
If the Democrats want a public relations win, it is vital that they do everything possible to make the stimulus bipartisan. Or else it will be a legislative win with the hopes that the stimulus package actually helps the economy. If it doesn’t the Democrats who voted for it will have to explain themselves in November of 2010.

Bertha Lewis, chief organizer of ACORN, said:
President Obama has been leading the way for Democrats by demonstrating a new way of doing business in Washington. To date, the Republicans haven’t gotten the message. By turns, they have been praising Obama, bashing Democratic congressional leaders, and, most importantly, voting en masse with Rush Limbaugh... Read the full response

Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) said:
I think it's very important to get bipartisan help -- if not for passage, for the long term. You can't sustain support for the kinds of things we're gonna have to do in a couple years with one party... Read the full response

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said:

That would be what we should do. It's very important that we have as many bipartisan efforts as possible, but of course there has to be a two-way street. They have to seek us out too.

Response obtained in person at the Capitol via digital recorder.


Protecting a Future of Food and Financial Stability

As Congress considers measures to rebuild and reinvest in America, Farm Aid strongly urges they not forget our nation's farmers and ranchers. As we enter the 2009 growing season, prices for farm products have decreased, while the cost of producing a crop has increased. The availability of affordable, long-term credit that farmers rely on to buy seeds, feed and other farm inputs is tightening, putting their businesses and their homes further at risk.

American family farmers are the backbone of the nation and the first rung on the economic ladder. When farms thrive, Main Street businesses and local communities thrive. Family farmers grow high quality food, are active in civic life and are essential to the economic vitality of both their hometowns and the nation. Supporting diverse decentralized family farming is necessary to the stability and vitality of our country. If we lose even one family farmer or make it increasingly difficult for new or beginning farmers to get on the land, our economy suffers. But when we keep farmers thriving and put new farmers on the land, we have an opportunity to ensure that our economy actually grows.