Coble votes against stimulus package; Watt, Kissell back it

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Staff report
The House-passed American Recovery and Investment Act failed to win over U.S. Rep. Howard Coble. The Greensboro Republican, whose 6th District includes about half of Rowan County, voted against the stimulus bill Wednesday, saying it didn’t do enough for working families and small businesses.
U.S. Reps. Mel Watt and Larry Kissell, both Democrats, voted for the bill, which now moves on to the Senate.
Watt’s 12th District takes in the other half of Rowan County, while Kissell’s 8th District includes Cabarrus County.
Among North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation, voting split along party lines, except for Rep. Heath Shuler, a Democrat who voted against the bill. Otherwise, the seven other Democrats were for the legislation, and the five Republicans were against it.
Coble said he opposed the bill because the most effective means of jump-starting the economy was to provide tax incentives to working families and small businesses.
“There are more than 778,000 small businesses in North Carolina with 500 or fewer employees,” Coble said in a press statement. “These businesses represent more than 98 percent of all of the firms doing business in our state, and they create more than 54 percent of the new jobs in North Carolina.”
Coble also saw no jump-start from legislation in which only 15 percent of the funding would be utilized this year, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
“Job cuts have been predicted to continue into this summer,” Coble said, “and our working families cannot afford to wait for stimulus years from now. They need it immediately.
“I don’t see how spending $335 million to combat sexually transmitted diseases or $600 million for new cars for government workers will create or protect North Carolina jobs.”
Coble said he understood the bill would cost each tax-paying resident in his district $2,700.
“With more than 680,000 residents, our total bill will be $1.88 billion, and we have no guarantee or estimate on how it will help our district,” he said.
On a side note, Coble spoke on the House floor earlier Wednesday to support an amendment offered by Kissell.
The amendment would extend the provisions of the Berry Amendment to purchases made by the Department of Homeland Security, meaning its Transportation Security Administration uniforms would have to be American-made.
The Berry Amendment provisions currently apply only to the Department of Defense.
President Barack Obama’s administration could expand the program to include other Homeland Security agencies such as FEMA, U.S. Immigration and Customs, and Border Protection, meaning some 100,000 employees in all.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., issued a statement Wednesday that said the stimulus package now being debated would spend almost a trillion dollars of borrowed money “on projects and programs that are unlikely to produce any real broad-based stimulus or create jobs that will still be here two years from now.”
“If the bill the Democrats have proposed in the Senate does not change drastically, then I will not be able to support it,” Burr said.