WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Wednesday asked Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag what can be done to speed up the rate of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending. In a letter to Orszag and OMB Deputy Director Robert Nabors, the Senator said the nation cannot be satisfied with the original spending goals.
“We must engage all of the Administration’s capabilities to do more with our stimulus dollars to restore economic vitality faster and with more immediate impact. The American people deserve and expect no less.” the Senator wrote.
The Senator will chair his fifth in a series of hearings on Thursday to ensure the accountability and transparency of stimulus spending.
Following is a copy of the letter:
The Honorable Peter Orszag
The Honorable Robert Nabors II
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Director Orszag and Deputy Director Nabors:
I appreciated the Vice President’s September 3, 2009 remarks regarding the 200 day mark of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and I share his belief that it has made a significant impact in halting the precipitous decline of the nation’s economy. Nevertheless, I am concerned that too many Americans continue to lose their homes and livelihoods through no fault of their own, and I fear that, until the pace of recovery picks up, this unacceptable situation will continue.
While the stimulus undoubtedly has kept unemployment numbers from being worse, many Americans still have not felt the benefits of the Recovery Act’s investments. As you well know, the loss of a job can begin a downward spiral that is difficult – and costly – to reverse even if a job reappears months later. Even the Recovery Act dollars to hire teachers and improve schools have not been enough to stem layoffs in public schools and other key government services. In the construction industry, where the national unemployment rate sits at 17%, too many workers remain idle, even as the building season in the northern part of our country threatens to slip away. State government officials and private contractors are beginning to point fingers, each blaming the other for delays. We can, and must, urge the states to increase their efforts to get shovels in the ground and our people back to work.
The speed of the recovery is critical. We know that the pace of Recovery Act spending has increased and will continue to improve compared to what we saw in the early months. We appear to be on track to provide $65 billion in tax relief in fiscal year ’09 (of the Act’s total of $288 billion), and spending about $107 billion in that period (out of $499 total) – close to what was projected by the Congressional Budget Office when we passed ARRA. But we cannot be satisfied with our initial goals. The stubborn persistence of high unemployment, with rates still rising, means we must redouble our commitment. With many Recovery Act contracts coming in at less than their expected costs, we have more dollars to spend on worthy projects. We must do everything possible to put those and all stimulus dollars to work as quickly as possible to blunt the heavy toll the recession continues to take on far too many of our citizens.
Tomorrow, I will chair the fifth hearing of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee focused on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I intend to ask you, Mr. Nabors, and other witnesses from the Administration and GAO how we can speed up this spending, while guarding against waste and abuse, so that more Americans in my state and others will feel its impact even sooner.
We must engage all of the Administration’s capabilities to do more with our stimulus dollars to restore economic vitality faster and with more immediate impact. The American people deserve and expect no less.
Joseph I. Lieberman