This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Neugebauer (R-TX) to the legislation containing the economic stimulus package. The amendment was designed to eliminate $355 billion of discretionary programs in the legislation. Rep. Neugebauer acknowledged that he and all other Members of Congress were concerned about the number of Americans who had lost their jobs. He then said that, despite this concern, he objected to the new appropriations in the stimulus package because they would require the government to spend money it does not have.
Neugebauer put forth a number of other arguments in support of his amendment, including the fact that several of the new spending programs established in the bill had not gone through the regular committee process and had not had much oversight. He argued that “(W)e don't even know for some of these projects how much money we are going to spend in 2009 (or 2010) because Congress has not finished its (appropriations) business for the current fiscal year.” In addition, Neugebauer said, the bill would spend $275,000 for each job it created. He also argued that the majority of the funds would not be spent until 2010, 2011 and 2012. He claimed the majority of Americans think that, rather than increasing federal spending, “the best way to stimulate the economy (is) with tax cuts for businesses and individuals.”
Rep. Obey (D-WI), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, in speaking in opposition to the amendment acknowledged that the stimulus package would cost a lot of money. He then asked: “How much will it cost us if the credit markets totally freeze up? How much will it cost us if we lose employment opportunities for another 3 to 4 million Americans? How much will it cost us . . . if we don't do something to stave off economic disaster?”
Obey characterized the Neugebauer Amendment as reflecting the kind of thinking in which Herbert Hoover engaged during the Great Depression. He said that the amendment does not recognize the reality of modern conditions, and is “primitive economically”. Obey argued that “this economy is in mortal danger of absolute collapse. We are trying to avoid that by injecting consumer spending into the economy (and) . . . the cost of doing nothing would be astronomical.” He also pointed out that voting for the amendment would eliminate additional funding in the stimulus package for a broad range of programs including education, science, infrastructure, energy transmission and rural broadband expansion.
The vote on the Neugebauer Amendment was134 ayes to 302 nays and it was defeated. All the134 aye votes were cast by Republicans. Forty-three other Republicans joined with all the Democrats and voted “nay”. As a result, the additional discretionary spending remained in the economic stimulus package.