The whopping $787 billion federal economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Barack Obama February 17 passed the U.S. Senate with just three Republican votes and zero support from U.S. House Republicans.
President Obama said the legislation will preserve or produce nearly 4 million jobs nationwide. In Minnesota, Congressional supporters said the stimulus would translate into 66,000 jobs.
“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will jump-start our economy in the near term while also building the foundation for longer-term prosperity,” said Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who supported the bill. “It will create millions of jobs and make critical investments in our roads, bridges and highways, in renewable, homegrown sources of energy and in our high-speed Internet infrastructure.”
The legislation came as economic reports showed the U.S. economy continue to hemorrhage jobs: Another 598,000 jobs were lost in January and the national unemployment rate jumped to 7.6 percent.
“This legislation helps Minnesotans and Minnesota’s economy in no uncertain terms,” said Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s 5th District Congressman, who also supported the legislation. “It provides crucial funding for at least 91 Minnesota schools. It also offers an additional $100 per month in unemployment benefits to 331,000 workers in Minnesota who have lost their jobs in the recession, and provides extended unemployment benefits to an additional 52,000 laid-off workers. These are economy starters,” Ellison stated.
Minnesota’s three Republican U.S. House members — John Kline, Erik Paulsen, and Michele Bachmann — all opposed the legislation, as did Minnesota DFLer Collin Peterson.
A staggering 2.6 million American jobs were lost in the last year of the Bush Administration — the culmination of promoting failed economic plans over and over again — plans that also doubled our national debt in 8 short years, and left the nation facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Congressman Ellison noted.
“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a dramatic first step by the new Obama Administration, working with the Democratic Congress,” Ellison concluded.
A statement released by the Economic Policy Institute’s Lawrence Mishel and John Irons also emphasized that the stimulus was a first step:
“…Even with this package, we still have significant economic and policy challenges ahead of us, including stabilizing the housing market and preventing foreclosures; ensuring access to high-quality affordable health care; modernizing financial market regulations; improving our educational system; and much, much more. This is a first step toward righting our nation’s economic ship, but much work remains to be done to promote widely shared prosperity for all.”
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said the stimulus package was “a down payment on a more hopeful and secure future for America’s workers and their families.”
“While it will still take many months for our economy to recover, this plan is a crucial first step that will put people back to work now, save and create good jobs, rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, and schools and invest in a stronger economy at a time when there’s nothing more important,” Sweeney said.
“Now working people need our leaders to focus on setting the foundation of an economy that will begin to work for everyone so that we do not end up in this position again,” Sweeney continued. “It’s time to re-regulate the banking and financial industries, prioritize working family issues like health care and retirement security and ensure that all workers have the freedom to improve their lives by forming unions and bargaining for better wages and benefits.”
Sweeney urged: “We hope those leaders who opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will end party politics as usual and begin to join the forward-thinkers who are seeking solutions to our nation’s problems.”