Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) "Republican Pro-Growth & Housing Stimulus Legislation"

Posted on February 28, 2008

Mr. President, I stayed so that I could respond to not just the words but the spirit and the tone of the remarks of the Senator from Connecticut. He and Senator Shelby, and their committee, are in the best position to help make sure we do our job between now and the upcoming recess, and on behalf of the Republican leader, I wish to say that is our goal. Looking back just to the end of last year, this Senate was able to take up an energy bill, have a principled debate -- including an argument about taxes -- and come to a result. And we took a step -- increasing fuel efficiency standards for the first time in 30 years -- that, according to a top expert at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will do more than anything else Congress could do to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Then we took up the economic stimulus legislation, and it was a smaller package than almost any of us would have preferred, because we had different points of view, but we agreed on it. We had a vote that kept out $40 billion in additional spending which that side wanted and this side largely didn't, but we came to a result, and the President signed it into law. We did the same thing on intelligence, with a very difficult issue, liberty versus security, and how do we balance that. We had a Rockefeller-Bond proposal on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that finally got 68 votes, and we sent it to the House. That is three straight. Now here comes housing. There is no reason we can't have a result here. I think all that we are saying on this side is that while the Democratic proposal may be a good start, we think it needs a lot of work. We do not, for example, want to put into law a proposal that many feel might turn home mortgages into junk bonds. We have some ideas in addition to those which have been proposed that we would like considered. There seems to be no reason in the world why the majority leader could not sit down with the Republican leader and say: Let's see if we can agree on a limited number of amendments. And we respect the fact that largely the Democratic side will want to pick its amendments, and we hope you will respect the fact that largely we would like to pick our amendments. Now, there is some negotiation there. It can't all be done out here tonight. But I think the point we would like to make is that there are 49 Republican Senators. We want to be a part of this solution, as we were in energy, as we were in with economic stimulus, as we were with intelligence, and we intend to be with housing as well. And we look to the chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Dodd, and to the ranking member, Senator Shelby, and to Senators Grassley and Baucus on the Finance Committee to help us get to that position early next week. My colleagues will hear us on this side talking a lot about a pro-growth economic plan that goes beyond just housing -- we believe in lower taxes, and we want lower health care costs and lower energy costs, and we want to implement the America COMPETES Act. We want a strong robust economy, and housing is a part of it. So there are some larger issues we might want to take up as part of the housing debate. Just which ones are appropriate ought to be something we could discuss and work out. So I appreciate the spirit of the Senator's comments. Our spirit is that we have 49 Members on this side of the aisle, and we would like to have our ideas included. We don't like the idea of just sending a bill up and saying: OK, here it is, let's vote it up or down. The majority leader said that really wasn't his intention, so maybe there is a misunderstanding, and maybe that can be cleared up over the weekend and we can get back to doing our job on housing, as we have done with the energy, economic stimulus, and intelligence bills. So I thank the Senator for his excellent remarks and his spirit, and I look forward to working with him. Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, we have other Senators wanting to speak, and these will be my last comments. I don't disagree with that. I think we all know what needs to happen here. We don't want the majority leader picking all our amendments. Mr. DODD. Of course not. Mr. ALEXANDER. And you didn't say you wanted to. So apparently, somehow, it didn't get through as clearly as it might have. Maybe we didn't hear it well or maybe it wasn't said as clearly. The Republican ideas, some of which we think are very strong, such as the Isakson amendment, for example, which has a lot of appeal, we want to make sure those ideas are included in the debate, and when that right is respected, we think we can have a good bill. So hopefully the majority leader and the Republican leader will have a chance to discuss that, and the chairman of the Banking Committee and the ranking member will help with that process as well.