(CNSNews.com) – The House Ways and Means Committee is conducting only a superficial review of the $825 billion economic stimulus bill, according to some Republican leaders who want to see more extensive scrutiny and discussion of the proposal before it goes to the House floor for a vote, which is expected in mid-February.
“We are on the cusp, in a matter of weeks, of spending what Congress ordinarily takes in, in an entire year, in over a dozen appropriation bills and subcommittee markups, and committee of the whole on the floor, to accomplish,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told CNSNews.com on Wednesday.
At a press conference, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said: “President Obama challenged us to find an American solution. That’s not happening in the House. We have had no hearing, no bi-partisan caucuses, and no bi-partisan discussions at all. We got the text at 5 o’clock on Friday of a holiday weekend.”
Pence and other Republican leaders said they are wary of the nearly $1 trillion package because, in part, it contains a host of items that congressional leaders rarely mention, including hundreds of millions of dollars for cable TV boxes for the transition to high-definition television, money for new windows in government housing, day care, and new turf for the national mall in Washington, D.C., among numerous other expensive projects.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and a spokesman for the Ways and Means Committee, where the bill currently rests, however, said that Democrats have already slowed the passage of the bill, that there has been opportunity for Americans to examine the bill’s merits, and that the “markup hearings” scheduled will provide ample opportunity for Republicans and the general public to examine the legislation.
“We have added approximately a month to the time that it [the legislation] is being considered largely to make sure people are given greater notice,” said Hoyer.
A spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee told CNSNews.com on background that markup hearings, the first of which are scheduled for today, will provide lawmakers with a chance to talk to experts.
Markup hearings differ from normal hearings in that they do not generally host expert witnesses who provide analysis of the possible successes or failures of programs included in the bill, John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the libertarian Cato Institute, told CNSNews.com.
Though witnesses sometimes appear at markup hearings, said Samples, they are generally representatives of government agencies discussing budgetary matters rather than the merits or demerits of a bill.
“They should delay tomorrow’s markup so we can have an actual hearing and find out from experts just how much job creation the proposal before us may contain,” said Camp.
CNSNews.com correspondent Matt Cover contributed to this report.