TULSA, OK -- Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation took aim Saturday at the White House's proposed economic stimulus package, saying the $780 billion bill doesn't create enough jobs and lacks funding for infrastructure projects like roads and bridges.
"Most of the American people think this is a big infrastructure bill -- it's not," said Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole during a question-and-answer session at the Oklahoma Press Association's Mid-Winter Convention in Tulsa. "Only about 7% of the total bill is spent on infrastructure of any kind.
"A lot of people think it's a tax cut bill -- it's not," he said.
Cole agreed that he favored some type of stimulus to kick-start the nation's flagging economy, but said this bill "has been used as sort of a Trojan horse" for spending programs.
Cole was joined Saturday by Republican Reps. Mary Fallin, John Sullivan and Democratic Rep. Dan Boren. Rep. Frank Lucas, along with Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, were unable to attend.
Fallin criticized what she saw as the unnecessary programs in the bill, likening it to a "big Christmas tree" with a gift for nearly everybody underneath.
"I prefer not to call it a stimulus program, but a ... big government, Big Brother spending program," she said. "We're asking people in their own homes to cut back on spending, to make sacrifices, while the government goes on a big spending spree."
Boren, the only member of Oklahoma's congressional delegation to vote for the stimulus bill, said the country is in a time it has not seen since the Great Depression, and predicted that the U.S. unemployment rate could still go up, even with some kind of stimulus package.
"We have the bad recession or the Great Depression," Boren said. "Which one of those do you want? We don't want either, but I think we're going to have to choose a really bad recession."
On Friday, the Senate appeared to reach a compromise on the package, producing a $780 billion version. The price tag of the stimulus plan has swung from $720 billion upward toward a trillion dollars. A vote on the measure could come as soon as Monday.
Earlier this week, the White House estimated that about 42,300 jobs could be saved or created in Oklahoma over two years by President Obama's stimulus package.
It also said that based on Internal Revenue Service statistics, almost 1.4 million Oklahoma workers and their families will be eligible for a tax cut of up to $1,000.
Even though Boren voted for the bill, he said President Obama had missed an opportunity to include more bipartisan ideas in the stimulus package.
"I think it was good he went to the Republican conference and visited with them ... but by simply just meeting with people and not putting some of their ideas into the bill, I think was a mistake," he said. "The problem was this became a Democrat bill -- it should be an American bill."