Friday, January 30, 2009

Our first telephone town hall was amazing. Thank you to all who joined — I hope you found it as helpful as I did. It was a great discussion with lots of good questions and ideas. We will be doing another soon, please watch for details.

American Recovery

Wednesday, I voted for the President’s $825 billion stimulus with one hand, and crossed my fingers with the other. The bill did not change too much from the recap I sent you last week, and sadly it was a strictly partisan vote. But let us be clear, despite Republican opposition (and I read Rep. Jenkin’s piece in the Star today) every American, left, right and midland needs to be hoping that this package works.

Failure is not something we honestly can consider. If after two years the speed, spread and scope of this package does not pay off, we will be entering our fifth and sixth year of recession and our problems will be far greater than asking where $825 billion went.

As you know I have as many friends on the other side of the aisle as I do on my side, but after their stewardship of the economy over the last 8 years, criticism from the right is a little hard to take. This may not be the answer, but every single one of us needs to be hoping for success instead of sharpening our partisan knives.


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act should create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, by rebuilding America, making us more globally competitive and energy independent, and transforming our economy for long-term growth; giving 95 percent of American workers an immediate tax cut; and investing quickly in the economy – with 75 percent of these job-creating investments in the economy in the next 18 months.

America is facing an economic crisis greater than any since the Great Depression. A staggering 2.6 million American jobs were lost in the last year. I do not need to tell you, things are bad. The unemployment rate here in Missouri has climbed to 7.3 percent.

As a result of the stimulus passed this week, independent economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s projects Missouri will save or create and estimated 71,030 jobs, growing our workforce by 2.2 percent.


The bill seeks to double our renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient. The energy provisions of the plan will create more than 500,000 jobs by accelerating deployment of smart grid technology and the building of new electric transmission lines for renewable energy, spurring energy efficiency investment in our homes and schools to cut energy costs, offering support for the nation’s governors and mayors to tackle their energy challenges, and spurring investment in renewable energy and better fuel efficient cars for a greener future. These are all things that HAVE to be done in the near future, so providing funding and concentrated effort both completes a national priority and puts people back to work.

Health Care

To reduce health care costs, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invests in a practical investment to bring our health care system into the 21st century with health information technology – that is proven not only to reduce costs but also to increase the quality of care, save lives, and create jobs.

While we are on the subject of health care, the millions of people who have lost their jobs in this recession have also lost their health insurance. This package provides those losing their jobs new affordable options for maintaining their health care coverage. And, to protect existing Medicaid coverage for millions of Americans, the package provides $1.49 billion here in Missouri in additional federal matching Medicaid funds to help stave off cuts in health care in the face of massive state budget shortfalls. Yes that is billion with a “b”.


Strategic investments in education are one of the best ways to help America become more productive and competitive – spurring long-term growth. This recovery package will make bold investments to provide children with a 21st century education. In Missouri, this means $1,22 billion to prevent teacher layoffs and other cutbacks in education and other key services and over $344 million to modernize our schools and colleges, which will create good- paying jobs. It will also make college more affordable with improved Pell Grants for the 138, 591 Pell Grant recipients in Missouri and a higher education tax credit for an additional 74,000 students in our state so that they can stay in college.


The bill also concentrates on construction. The Act will make large investments to repair and modernize thousands of miles of roadways in the U.S., provide new mass transit options for millions of Americans, and invest in clean water infrastructure. These provisions would create about 1.5 million American jobs nationwide. In Missouri, this will provide more than $954 million to invest in these key infrastructure projects that are ready to go and will begin to create jobs for Missourians right away.

Tax Relief

As a downpayment on permanent middle-class tax cuts promised by President Obama, the plan includes tax cuts for 95% of American workers, including Over 2 million families here in Missouri with the “Making Work Pay” Tax Credit. Expanding the Child Tax Credit will help the families of 326,000 children in Missouri. The business tax cuts in the package will also spur new job-creating investments by businesses large and small, that will transform our economy for years to come, such as in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

In this economic crisis, high unemployment and rising costs have put a huge strain on many American families. The package contains a series of additional provisions to help, including helping workers train and find jobs, extending unemployment benefits for 48,000 people here in Missouri, and increasing food stamp benefits for nearly a million more people in need our home state.

The package now moves to the Senate who, last I knew, were contemplating a package of $900 billion which alters some of these formulas a bit, so the numbers may change from what I have outlined here. I will try to keep you up to date as the bill moves forward. We expect the bill to be on the President’s desk before Presidents’ Day as he has requested.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Telephone Town Hall next Tuesday

As we grapple with some of the most challenging issues facing our nation in decades, I want to make sure that you are informed and can participate in crafting solutions. To that end, next Tuesday night, I will be hosting my first telephone town hall meeting. Basically this is a conference call with me on the line in Washington taking questions and comments from you back in the District.

This is a great opportunity for you to share your concerns and questions directly with me from the comfort of your own home. The call is free, and I'd love to hear from you.

Call this number 1-877-229-8493 to join in, and enter this PIN 14577 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 27. My staff and I will be on the line to help you, and I am eager to hear what you have to say.

Draft Economic Stimulus Bill breakdown

The House of Representatives has developed a draft plan for $825 billion in federal spending and tax cuts to revive and rejuvenate the failing economy. The bill places priority on energy, education, health care and creating jobs.

The legislation calls for federal spending of roughly $550 billion and tax cuts of $275 billion over the next two years.

Our goals with this bill are immediate job creation in the short term and continuing job creation over the long haul.

Aid to workers

With unemployment rising, and applications for various forms of federal aid keeping pace, the legislation calls for increased spending on food stamps, unemployment insurance and job training. It also proposes an increase in Pell Grants for college students of $500.

Four billion dollars for job training including formula grants for adult, dislocated worker, and youth services (including $1.2 billion to create up to one million summer jobs for youth) was identified.

The needs of workers also will be met through dislocated worker national emergency grants, new competitive grants for worker training in high growth and emerging industry sectors (with priority consideration to “green” jobs and healthcare), and increased funds for the YouthBuild program. Green jobs training will include preparing workers for activities supported by other economic recovery funds, such as retrofitting of buildings, green construction, and the production of renewable electric power.

The bill allocates $300 million to upgrade job training facilities serving at-risk youth while improving energy efficiency.

States will receive $500 million for formula grants for construction and rehabilitation of facilities to help persons with disabilities prepare for gainful employment.

$500 million is allocated for programs to match unemployed individuals to job openings through state employment service agencies and allow states to provide customized services. Funds are targeted to states with the greatest need based on labor force, unemployment, and long-term unemployed rates.

A total of $27 billion will be used to continue the current extended unemployment benefits program – which provides up to 33 weeks of extended benefits - through December 31, 2009 given rising unemployment.

Additionally, $9 billion will increase the current average unemployment insurance benefit from roughly $300 per week, paid out of State trust funds, by $25 per week using Federal funds, through December 2009. There are currently 5.3 million workers receiving regular UI and an additional 1.9 million receiving extended benefits.

Health Care

The bill will allocate $87 billion to help the states meet the rising cost of providing health care for the poor, and another $39 billion to subsidize coverage by out-of-work wage-earners who cannot afford the cost of their employer-covered health care.


More than $100 billion is ticketed for education, including money for school districts to shield them from the effects of state cutbacks in services.

Estimates for local school districts are as follows:

Belton: FY2009 $1,608,000 FY2010 $973,300 TOTAL $2,581,200

Center: FY2009 $1,494,500 FY2010 $752,800 TOTAL $2,247,200

Grandview: FY2009 $2,297,300 FY2010 $1,163,600 TOTAL $3,460,900

Hickman Mills: FY2009 $4,533,200 FY2010 $2,206,200 TOTAL $6,739,400

Independence: FY2009 $3,826,500 FY2010 $2,255,100 TOTAL $6,081,600

Kansas City: FY2009 $33,984,400 FY2010 $14,633,600 TOTAL $48,618,000

Lee’s Summit: FY2009 $2,909,000 FY2010 $2,190,400 TOTAL $5,099,400

Lone Jack: FY2009 $93,500 FY2010 $70,900 TOTAL $164,400

Raymore-Peculiar: FY2009 $1,050,100 FY2010 $738,700 TOTAL $1,788,800

Raytown: FY2009 $3,084,200 FY2010 $1,823,500 TOTAL $4,907,600


Five billion dollars has been allocated for building repair and modernization, including critical safety repairs. Every dollar of Capital Fund expenditures produces $2.12 in economic return. $4 billion of the funds will be distributed to public housing authorities through the existing formula and $1 billion will be awarded through a competitive process for projects that improve energy efficiency.

An additional $1.5 billion to help local communities build and rehabilitate low-income housing using green technologies is in the draft. Thousands of ready-to-go housing projects have been stalled by the credit crunch. Funds are distributed by formula.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program will get an increase of $4.2 billion to help communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant properties in order to create more affordable housing and reduce neighborhood blight.

And for those hardest hit among us, $1.5 billion is allocated for the Emergency Shelter Grant program to provide short term rental assistance, housing relocation, and stabilization services for families during the economic crisis. Funds are distributed by formula.

Tax Relief

The draft calls for a tax credit of $500 per worker and $1,000 per working couple.

Businesses would be able to reduce their taxes through a provision that expands their ability to write off current losses against past profits, and by accelerating the depreciation of new plants and equipment.

First-time homeowners also would get a break. The bill eliminates the requirement for them to repay a new $7,500 tax credit created in a housing measure that passed last summer.


Funds for energy-related programs can be seen throughout the bill top-to-bottom.
Included is $32 billion to upgrade the nation's electrical distribution system, more than $20 billion in tax cuts to promote the development of alternatives to oil fuels, and billions more to make public housing, federal buildings and modest-income homes more energy efficient.

The bill, as written, calls for $30 billion for highway construction and $10 billion for mass transit and rail. Missouri will receive close to one billion dollars for fiscal year 2009.

In Missouri it breaks down to roughly:

Highways and Bridges:$688,319,889
Fixed Guideway Modernization: $11,631,300
Clean Water: $160,919,352

Additional State Allocations

Additionally the following 13 programs receive direct allotments from the bill, increasing the allocation to Missouri an additional $1.2 billion over the next 2 years:

-State Fiscal Stabilization Fund
-Title I (Disadvantaged Students)
-Individuals with Disabilities Act (Special Education)
-Education Technology State Grants
-Education Modernization, Renovation and Repair (both K-12 and Higher Education)
-Pell Grants
-Head Start
-Child Care & Development Block Grant
-Employment and Training
-Community Services Block Grant
-Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)
-Elderly Nutrition Services
-Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant

Missouri allocation for the above programs:
FY 2009 $608,519,000
FY 2010 $608,519,000
TOTAL $1,217,038,000

We are looking to vote next week on the bill. The Senate is operating on a similar timetable and I hope that we will have a final bill ready for the President’s signature by Presidents' Day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

“So help me God”

Every once in a while a day comes along you never thought you would see. A few come to my mind like James Meredith’s first day of school at Ole Miss, the assassination of President Kennedy, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy back-to-back-to-back, the first steps of Neil Armstrong on the moon and one September morning two airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers.

These are events, both of joy and woe that we all remember where we were when we heard the news, saw the pictures and felt their impact. They become part of our language, reference points by which other events are judged, and pivot points from which we are collectively never the same.

We come upon one of these common shared moments in history next Tuesday, a moment I never believed I would see in my lifetime. The world’s eyes will share a singular spectacle. A man will place his brown hand on the bible used by Abraham Lincoln and swear to uphold, defend and protect the Constitution as President of the United States of America.

With that, our great American experiment will take another step forward.

The founders devised a nation of laws that could grow and change like a living organism. We are a nation where every day is a new day and each unique and often flawed experiment in democracy is judged and weighed separately to be either woven into our fabric or discarded. They were brilliant in their certainty that they did not know all the answers.

But it was these geniuses of Liberty that stained our nation with its original sin: That despite the decree, all men were in fact not seen as equal. Their shortcomings in many ways come full circle as we inaugurate Barack Obama as our President.

That oath, enshrined in the Constitution and the only sentence in quotes in the entire document, reads:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

This is our great pledge. While the parades, balls and parties surrounding the inauguration are exciting, the purpose of the entire day is these 37 words outlined by our founders as the promise a President makes to the people he serves.

The oath President-elect Obama recites is the exact same pledge that George Washington took. In fact, General Washington himself wrote notes on the draft Constitution he was working on in August of 1787. At the archives in Washington, D.C. you can see where Washington crossed out the word “judgment” and wrote the word “ability”.

Washington was concerned that a President would interpret the oath to mean their judgment could supplant the Constitution’s. In one of the small beautiful pieces of history, it was the first President himself whose personal edit guaranteed that the Constitution was supreme.

On Tuesday we will gather as a national community to re-enact one of our nation’s few sacred rites: The passing of the title Head of State and Commander in Chief from one man to another peacefully. With 37 words a new President becomes leader of the free world, the only gun shots fired are salutes in celebration.

It is often retold that after the oath was administered, Washington added the phrase, “So help me God.” Of course, by tradition, each new President recites that same simple prayer. But what happened immediately after at the First Inaugural is perhaps as appropriate.

On the balcony on that April day in 1789, the Supreme Court had yet to be constituted and so the oath of office was administered by Chancellor Robert R. Livingstone, New York's highest ranking judge. Immediately after swearing in President Washington, the Chancellor whispered “It is done.”
And so friends as we approach this momentous day, and the first black President is inaugurated I echo to all those who have worked and struggled and dreamed of this day — “It is done.”