Ehlers Criticizes Daschle's Actions
GRAND RAPIDS — Congressman Vern Ehlers had some harsh words last week for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. The Grand Rapids Republican said the South Dakota Democrat wants to extend the economic recession into the fall in order to give Democrats some political ammunition for the November election.
Ehlers said he was convinced that Daschle was trying to delay a recovery because he kept the Senate from voting on an economic stimulus package.
“I just think that is unconscionable. At the very least, have them pass what they want and start negotiating,” said Ehlers. “I think he is now regretting having done this.”
The House earlier passed its version of a stimulus package, a series of economic strategies that President George W. Bush and most Republicans believe will help lead to a recovery.
“The tax cuts in that bill encourage businesses to create jobs,” said Ehlers.
But Daschle criticized the bill as being too generous to big business and too stingy with workers who lost their jobs last year. He wanted more money for unemployment benefits and health care coverage for those workers and less for the country’s largest companies than the House package contained.
“That is a genuine, honest difference,” said Ehlers of the dissimilar beliefs the two parties hold in how to attack the recession. “I respect Daschle’s comments on that.”
Ehlers said that the House-passed package contained both unemployment and health care benefits for workers and incentives for businesses to hire new employees. But he also noted that there was only so much that the government could do to rev up the economy.
Ehlers also said that the federal budget deficit would likely reach $60 billion this fiscal year. Unlike Daschle, who claimed that the $1.3 trillion tax cut enacted last spring was most responsible for wiping out the budget surplus, Ehlers felt the deficit was largely due to increased military spending and more funds being dedicated to national security matters since the terrorist actions. If the attacks hadn’t happened, the congressman said the federal budget would likely have had at least a $5 billion surplus
As for the effect of the current recession, Ehlers said he expected it would have a stronger negative impact than it has had. Consumers, he remarked, prevented that from happening, as they kept their spending up enough to ease the downturn’s impact.
“I’ve been saying for a number of years that with this incredibly long economic expansion, I predicted that when we did have a recession it would be more severe,” he said.
“People are keeping up with their cars. They’re buying all the latest electronics. Almost any consumer can go for a year or two without buying these things, and it’s amazing to me that has not happened.”