Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced skepticism Monday over the massive economic-stimulus package being drafted by Democrats, likening Barack Obama's first major initiative to a "trillion-dollar spending bill" that could leave the country saddled with an unsustainable debt.
McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who will lead a smaller GOP minority next Congress, said the bill should be the subject of extensive hearings to scrutinize how the federal dollars would be spent and questioned Democrats' goals to approve the bill by the time Obama is sworn into office on Jan. 20.
"Surely the Democrat leadership in Congress doesn't plan to spend a trillion dollars of taxpayer money -- nearly $10,000 in new debt for everyone who pays federal income tax, charged to the credit card for our children to pay -- without safeguards, without appropriate hearings to scrutinize how tax dollars are being spent," he said in a statement.
In addition to hearings, McConnell has called for an open amendment process to give the GOP opportunity to alter the bill as it heads to the Senate floor. It's unclear yet whether Democrats will oblige, saying the economy is in rough enough shape that quick action is needed to stave off the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
House and Senate Democratic staffers are trying to finish drafting a bill by the time the new Congress convenes in the first week of January. While Democrats have the numbers to push through a big bill, Obama aides say the new president wants the package to pass with broad bipartisan support, meaning they may seek McConnell's backing.
After opposing the auto-industry bailout this month, McConnell may be likely to side with the growing public sentiment against the government's unprecedented use of federal dollars to jolt the economy, especially as the GOP fights for its identity and may try to return to its small-government roots. But blocking a bill would open his party up to criticism as the economic recession deepens.
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