WASHINGTON — By voting against the $838 billion economic stimulus package Tuesday, Tennessee and Georgia senators bucked public opinion polls showing most Americans support President Barack Obama’s plan to reverse the country’s recession.
But the senators, all Republican, said the bill will not create jobs and instead will place a major burden on Americans.
“What will occur is that generation upon generation will be paying for this potpourri of spending,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. “I hope jobs are created very quickly in this country, but I know they will not be created because of this stimulus bill.”
The Senate passed the package 61-37, with three Republicans crossing party lines.
“I think something needs to be done, but I know I’m going to have to pay for it eventually,” said Tim Collins, 29, of Rossville, Ga. “That makes my stomach hurt a little — sort of like after Christmas when you realize you really blew it out.”
Despite the Senate vote and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s announcement of a revamped Wall Street rescue plan, the stock market plunged Tuesday.
That may reflect what Jim Thornton of Hixson said is the major problem in the economy — fear.
“I hope that people feel better, because as I see it the problem is mental,” the 35-year-old said. “People aren’t spending and businesses are cutting, and it’s costing others their jobs.”
Terrance Robinson, 19, a UTC student who is looking for part-time work, said he is “ready for there to be jobs. So if all this means people will start hiring, I will be for it.”
Now House and Senate members will try to reconcile the Senate version of the stimulus package with the $819 billion House version that passed last week. No Republicans voted for the House bill.
The legislation includes spending on highway construction, electricity grids, expanded programs for the poor and unemployed and aid to states, along with tax cuts.
Projections show Tennessee is expected to get $2.7 billion in the Senate bill, compared to $3.8 billion in the House version. Georgia’s share is $4 billion in the Senate and $5.6 billion in the House.
Mr. Obama has stepped up criticism of Republicans’ continued dogging of the stimulus. On Tuesday he said urgent action is needed to repair the nation’s economy.
“We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression,” he said in Ft. Myers, Fla. “We can’t afford to posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place. After all, that’s what this election was about.”
Polls indicate Americans largely agree with the president.
A Gallup poll this week showed the public giving Mr. Obama a 67 percent approval rating for the way he is handling the economic stimulus bill. Support for the bill itself has slipped in recent weeks.
Congressional Republicans’ approval rating was just 31 percent for their handling of the stimulus, compared to congressional Democrats’ 48 percent approval rating.
But Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said calls to his office have been about 30-to-1 against the stimulus bill.
“A real stimulus bill would make sure we were spending money in ways that would create jobs,” Sen. Chambliss said. “The way you primarily do that is to incentivize (businesses) to expand. There’s nothing in there that does that.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., complained that Democrats shut Republicans out, and he warned that without more bipartisan support Mr. Obama’s tenure could be difficult.
“The president can pass a few pieces of legislation with no real effort and no real result in terms of getting Republican ideas into the legislation, but it is not the way to get the country moving again,” he said. “This is not a good beginning to have the kind of bipartisan framework that most of us want.”
Luke Porter, 45, of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., said he is “going to trust that (President Obama) knows what’s best. But what got us into this is that we let businesses merge and merge until they were too big to fail. Hopefully we learned from that, but having an even bigger government isn’t a good alternative.”