American Recovery and Reinvestmant Act of 2009

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 2, 2009
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chair, I rise this evening in support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1). America is in the midst of the worst economic storm since the Great Depression. Millions of people are hurting across the United States and in my home state of New Jersey. New Jersey's unemployment rate has risen to 7.1 percent from 4.2 percent just a year ago. Our nation's economy is in recession, and we must respond with every tool in our tool box to help put Americans back to work and rebuild our struggling economy.

We could let the free market continue to spiral downward or we could pass a bill with a smaller price tag, ignoring the lessons learned from Congress's previous attempt at stimulating the economy through rebate sent out in spring of 2008. We can no longer wait to act. The time has come for a bold, national, response. Economists have predicted that the unemployment rate will skyrocket to over 12 percent this year. The package we are considering today has the potential to create 3 to 4 million much needed new jobs in the short term.

The House approved the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, comprehensive legislation that through targeted, job-creating spending, responsible investments in the nation's social safety net to help Americans weather the difficult months ahead, and tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans will help the United States climb out of the current recession. Importantly, this bill includes critical investments in research and development, which lay the ground work for innovation and sustainable, long-term economic growth. It is unfortunate that not one member of the minority saw fit to approve this important bill.

In the short term, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would help create up to 1.5 million new construction jobs by providing $30 billion to states for transportation, infrastructure, and energy efficiency improvements. This would translate to approximately $777 million for ready-to-go road and bridge modernization projects in my home state of New Jersey. Infrastructure improvements would serve a dual purpose; creating 835,000 jobs and helping to address the backlog of needed improvements to our nation's transportation network that total $61 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This bill would also invest $10 billion in public transportation, $333 million to relieve congestion on our roadways in New Jersey. This bill would also create an additional 375,000 jobs by investing $19 billion for clean water, environmental restoration, and flood control projects.

H.R. 1 will fund a number of additional projects that my Central New Jersey constituents refer to as "green stimulus.'' Investment in "green stimulus'' can create good American jobs that cannot be outsourced, while reducing our reliance on foreign fuels, protecting our environment and slowing the rate of global warming. Specifically, this legislation would provide $32 billion to transform the nation's energy transmission, distribution, and production system so they can handle renewable energy sources. This legislation includes more than $26 billion in incentives to promote renewable energy and help low and middle income Americans weatherize their homes. These incentives include the renewable energy production tax credit, the energy research and development tax credit, and the consumer energy-efficiency tax credits.

Responding to the nation's rising unemployment rate, this bill would devote $4 billion to job training programs and would extend unemployment benefits through December 31, 2009, increasing benefits by $25 per week for individuals looking for work.

The current economic downturn has hit hard public school districts, which are being forced to make painful cuts in services. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan makes sound investments in public education. The legislation would provide $20 billion to states to rebuild the nation's crumbling schools. In particular, the bill includes a provision from a bill that I authored, the School Building Enhancement Act, which would give schools grants to increase their energy efficiency helping them to save thousands of dollars annually on their energy costs.

Additionally, to ensure that families can send their children to college, this bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, to $5,350 and would help 4 million more students attend college with a new $2,500 college tuition tax credit for families.

I am deeply gratified that the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act reflects a profound commitment to renewing our nation's innovation infrastructure. In crafting this package, Congress has recognized that research and innovation are not merely luxuries to be undertaken only in time of economic prosperity. The truth is that scientific research is perhaps the most powerful economic engine, creating jobs in the short-term and building our economy for the long-term.

All together, the recovery package includes nearly $16 billion to support scientific research and facilities, including $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $2 billion for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and $3.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health. There is no doubt that these funds will create jobs. Lab technicians will be hired to carry out projects that previously went unfunded. Electricians will be put to work wiring new laboratory equipment. And construction workers will begin refurbishing our neglected laboratories and building the facilities that will transform science for the twenty-first century.

Of course, the ideal project is one that keeps on giving, and that is exactly what scientific research does. The innovation and discoveries that come from research form the roots from which our economy grows and prospers. For too long, we have underinvested in science, and we will never know the resulting costs to our prosperity. But we know that science will be the foundation of our nation's future economic vitality. In his inaugural address, President Obama said, "We will restore science to its rightful place.'' That place is at the very heart of our nation's progress. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act acknowledges this fact and provides an important first step toward the sustained investment that will prevent the need for future recovery packages.

As American workers lose their jobs, more and more face losing their health insurance coverage as well. Job losses have boosted Medicaid and SCHIP rolls, straining state budgets already stretched thin due to lower tax revenues. To address these problems, this bill would allow states to temporarily cover their unemployed workers under Medicaid and would increase temporarily the federal government's contribution to Medicaid. For workers able to continue their health coverage through COBRA, the bill would subsidize COBRA premiums by 65 percent. The Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office estimate that these two provisions will provide health insurance to more than eight million people.

In addition to helping families maintain their health insurance coverage, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act seeks to improve health care quality and its value. This bill would promote Health Information Technology systems, which could help reduce medical errors while lowering administrative costs, and accelerate their adoption and usage among doctors and hospitals.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would also address the struggling economy by putting money back in the pockets of American families, workers, students and businesses through $285 billion worth of tax cuts. Ninety-five percent of working Americans would receive a tax cut through a refundable tax credit of up to $500 per worker that will be quickly distributed by reducing tax withholding from workers' paychecks. It will lower the taxes of more than 16 million families by increasing the child tax credit and expanding the earned income tax credit.

This bill includes a number of provisions that will help businesses to create new jobs in this difficult economy. It will allow businesses to improve cash flow by allowing businesses to write off 90 percent of losses incurred in 2008 and 2009 against taxes assessed over the previous five years. In addition, it will help businesses expand by extending the increased bonus depreciation for businesses making investments in new plants and equipment in 2009. This legislation will help small businesses by doubling the amount they can deduct on their taxes for capital investments and new equipment.

Through this comprehensive approach, we can begin to put the American economy back on the right track. We must approve the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. We need to get America back to work and rebuild our economy.