Senate GOP leader criticizes auto provision in stimulus bill

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Senate GOP leader criticizes auto provision in stimulus bill

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The Senate’s top Republican criticized a key provision for automakers in an $819 billion House stimulus bill.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky., criticized a provision to give the federal government $600 million to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, calling it "wasteful spending."

He told CBS’s "Face the Nation" Sunday that the provision shouldn’t be in the stimulus bill, and ridiculed it as "$600 million to buy new cars for government workers."

In the Republican weekly address, McConnell said the provision wouldn’t stimulate the economy.

"Turning aside Republican ideas, Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives produced a massive bill that many analysts say is unlikely to create new jobs or boost the economy anytime soon. Most of the infrastructure projects it includes won’t impact the economy for at least another year. Permanent spending would be expanded by about $240 billion, an increase that would lock in bigger and bigger deficits every year. And the bill is loaded with wasteful spending," McConnell said Saturday.

McConnell didn’t mention a separate $400 million provision to help state and local governments buy more efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles.

The House passed the stimulus bill last week 244-178 — with no Republicans voting in favor of the bill. The Senate takes up the bill on Monday.

Auto sales fell 18 percent in 2009 and collapsed in the last three months of the year. The provision could boost auto sales by about 30,000 vehicles — though the bill requires the government not to increase the total size of the fleet — but to scrap older, less efficient vehicles in exchange for newer, more efficient models.

In total, there’s more than $3.5 billion in auto industry programs in the stimulus bills, including $2 billion in battery research funds. Democrats have also called for $300 million to replace and retrofit older, dirtier, diesel engines.

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