A Teleconference With Jeff Sessions On The Stimulus Bill

I just finished a teleconference with one of my favorite senators, Jeff Sessions, on the Stimulus bill. What follows are my notes, not quotes, from the teleconference.

Opening Statement From Jeff Sessions

I still think people are not recognizing the size of this bill. It’s the largest spending program in the history of the country so far. The CBO is calculating that the interest alone will be 340 billion dollars over the next 10 years. So, it’s really a 1.2 trillion dollar bill. The Iraq war cost 500 billion to give you something to compare it with.

Some senators may vote for cloture, but not vote for the bill. They don’t deserve credit for voting against this bill. If the Democrats don’t get cloture, they will have to come back to us and talk and we can get a better bill.

The easiest, quickest way for Obama to save 600 billion dollars is to not spend it now. He will not, in 8 years, cut entitlement bills 600 billion dollars. This bill moves us more rapidly than we want to admit to a state dominated economy.

A lot of the spending in this bill is for things that should be part of our normal spending — Headstart, Pell Grants, etc. Why should that be in the stimulus? If you can’t get more money in the regular bill, you add it to the stimulus package, which is in effect an emergency spending package — and there are no budget points of order. It’s particularly irresponsible. If we raise the funds for these programs, they won’t be cut in the future. It’s the new baseline.

There is growing opposition to this bill. The WAPO said Obama needs to step in. The Chamber of Commerce is opposing this one. Scarborough trashes it every day. USA Today is questioning it.

That’s good because this bill is dangerous to the Republic.

The Q&A Session

If we include the interest, this stimulus is as much as we spent in 1998 on the whole budget. We have no real history of seeing spending decrease in this country. So, will the stimulus be the new baseline from which we will grow?

Much of this, at least half or more, will not end. We will, in effect, have raised the fundamental spending level more than we have in history. The financial integrity of our country is at stake here.

Many of these program raises would normally have to go through committee. People need to know that if we voted this bill out this week, the Treasury would take a 1.2 trillion dollar hit. This will be the highest since WW2 as a part of GDP.

The economic numbers are not as bad as 1975 or 1982. We didn’t need this kind of spending to get us out of that. Are we going too fast? Should we wait to see how fast we’re moving?

That’s what I think. I am in a distinct minority on that though. Most members of Congress are personally panicked or want to cover themselves by voting for it and then saying they helped pass a package if the economy gets better.

CBO projected without the stimulus, unemployment could get in the mid-9% range. It was over 11% in the early eighties. Can we put this kind of burden on our children every time the economy gets like this?

How many people have actually read this bill?

Very few have actually read it, but concern is rising. Hopefully, this thing will fail and we can go back to it.

Can you clarify your cloture comments?

A vote for cloture is a vote to pass the bill. There are 50 votes for the bill, but I don’t think there are 60.

There was a lot of conciliatory talk from Obama and Schumer about increasing infrastructure spending to get Republicans on board.

We’re only spending 30 billion or so on infrastructure. (Missed the rest of his answer on this one because of a tech problem)

Is there talk of adding in benchmarks and not continuing the spending if the economy picks up and we don’t need it?

I haven’t heard talk about that, but it’s a good idea.

(Question from me) Raising the deficit by this level has got to start making people question whether our deficit is getting too large for us to ever pay back — especially with the other spending Obama wants. Could this cause us to be unable to get financing on our nation’s debt in the next few years?

We have been lucky that our surging debt has not socked us with surging interest rates. China buys a huge amount of our debt. But, China’s trade surplus was 50 billion a month. A couple of months ago, it was 20 million. So, even if they want to do it, their economy is slowing down. They can’t afford to keep financing our debt the way they have in the past.

The oil states, when they were making $120 barrel, it was easy to spend money financing our debt. So, now with much cheaper prices, that could be hard.

There is no plan to pay this money back. Obama says we are planning to have trillion dollar rates for years to come.

(Question from me) So what happens if nobody is willing to finance our debt? What then?

Worst case scenario, we inflate the currency and pay people back with money worth less than what it is now. That would be a colossal error. But, there’s no free lunch. We can have huge inflation or interest rates can go up and it may cost us an enormous amount to pay the money back.

The White House budget is projecting that our budget revenues are going to continue to go up over the next few years. How can that be?

They may be planning on tax increases, but I can’t see how revenues are going to increase over the next year or two with the slowing economy.

I had seen something from the Heritage Foundation about how the Democrats are vastly increasing the number of people getting government medical care in the House bill. Would that be a line in the sand from Senate Republicans to oppose?

The S-Chip bill that just passed and because of that, more and more healthcare money is going to high income people and richer states. It’s ridiculous to have the government paying for the health care of middle-income people or even people making a $100k a year. We’re having low income states subsidizing the Medicaid of high income states.

Senator Sessions had a previous commitment and had to leave at this point.

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