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Paul Tonko on Budget & Economy

 

 


Voted NO on prioritizing spending in case debt limit is reached.

Congressional Summary:Requires the Secretary of the Treasury, in addition to any other authority provided by law, to issue obligations to pay with legal tender, and solely for the purpose of paying, the principal and interest on U.S. obligations held by the public, or held by the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and Disability Insurance Trust Fund, in the event that the federal debt reaches the statutory limit after enactment of this Act. Prohibits the issued obligations from being taken into account in applying the current $16.394 trillion public debt limit to the extent that they would otherwise cause such limit to be exceeded.

Opponent's Argument for voting No:Rep. MAFFEI: The American people want us to work together--Republicans and Democrats--to reduce our debt, pay our bills, and avoid an economic catastrophe, which would result from default. This legislation presumes it will happen and maps out not if but what happens when the United States defaults. Their plan ensures that foreign creditors such as China, Japan, and OPEC countries Iran and Saudi Arabia would continue to get paid while we halt other payments to groups of Americans who have earned those benefits. This bill prioritizes Chinese lenders ahead of American seniors and veterans and college students. That's why it's called the Pay China First Act.

White House statement in opposition:American families do not get to choose which bills to pay and which ones not to pay, and the United States Congress cannot either without putting the nation into default for the first time in its history. This bill would threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, cost American jobs, hurt businesses of all sizes and do damage to the economy. It would cause the nation to default on payments for Medicare, veterans, national security and many other critical priorities. This legislation is unwise, unworkable, and unacceptably risky."

Reference: Full Faith and Credit Act; Bill H R 807 ; vote number 13-HV807 on May 9, 2013

Voted NO on terminating the Home Affordable mortgage Program.

Congressional Summary: Amends the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to terminate providing new mortgage modification assistance under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), except with respect to existing obligations on behalf of homeowners already extended an offer to participate in the program.

Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Biggert, R-IL]: The HAMP Termination Act would put an end to the poster child for failed Federal foreclosure programs. The program has languished for 2 years, hurt hundreds of thousands of homeowners, and must come to an end. This bill would save $1.4 billion over 10 years. To date, the HAMP program has already consumed $840 million of the more than $30 billion of TARP funds that were set aside for the program. For this extraordinary investment, the administration predicted that 3 to 4 million homeowners would receive help. HAMP has hurt more homeowners than it has helped. The program has completed about 540,000 mortgage modifications. Another 740,000 unlucky homeowners had their modifications cancelled.

Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Capuano, D-MA]: This is a program that I'm the first to admit has not lived up to what our hopes were. This program we had hoped would help several million people. Thus far we've only helped about 550,000 people. But to simply repeal all of these programs is to walk away from individual homeowners, walk away from neighborhoods. I'm not going to defend every single aspect of this program, and I am happy to work with anyone to make it better, to help more people to keep their homes, & keep their families together. To simply walk away without offering an alternative means we don't care; this Congress doesn't care if you lose your home, period. Now, I understand if that makes me a bleeding-heart liberal according to some people, so be it.

Reference: The HAMP Termination Act; Bill H.839 ; vote number 11-HV198 on Mar 29, 2011

Voted YES on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. LEWIS (D, GA-5): This bipartisan bill will provide the necessary funds to keep important transportation projects operating in States around the country. The Highway Trust Fund will run out of funding by September. We must act, and we must act now.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. CAMP (R, MI-4): [This interim spending is] needed because the Democrats' economic policy has resulted in record job loss, record deficits, and none of the job creation they promised. Democrats predicted unemployment would top out at 8% if the stimulus passed; instead, it's 9.5% and rising. In Michigan, it's above 15%. The Nation's public debt and unemployment, combined, has risen by a shocking 40% [because of] literally trillions of dollars in additional spending under the Democrats' stimulus, energy, and health plans.

We had a choice when it came to the stimulus last February. We could have chosen a better policy of stimulating private-sector growth creating twice the jobs at half the price. That was the Republican plan. Instead, Democrats insisted on their government focus plan, which has produced no jobs and a mountain of debt.

Reference: Omnibus Appropriations Act Amendment; Bill H.R. 3357 ; vote number 2009-H659 on Jul 29, 2009

Voted YES on modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures.

Congressional Summary:Amends federal bankruptcy law to exclude debts secured by the debtor's principal residence that was either sold in foreclosure or surrendered to the creditor.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. PETER WELCH (D, VT-0): Citigroup supports this bill. Why? They're a huge lender. They understand that we have to stabilize home values in order to begin the recovery, and they need a tool to accomplish it. Mortgages that have been sliced and diced into 50 different sections make it impossible even for a mortgage company and a borrower to come together to resolve the problem that they share together.

Sen. DICK DURBIN (D, IL): 8.1 million homes face foreclosure in America today. Last year, I offered this amendment to change the bankruptcy law, and the banking community said: Totally unnecessary. In fact, the estimates were of only 2 million homes in foreclosure last year. America is facing a crisis.

Opponent's argument to vote No:

Sen. JON KYL (R, AZ): This amendment would allow bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages by lowering the principal and interest rate on the loan or extending the term of the loan. The concept in the trade is known as cram-down. It would apply to all borrowers who are 60 days or more delinquent. Many experts believe the cram-down provision would result in higher interest rates for all home mortgages. We could end up exacerbating this situation for all the people who would want to refinance or to take out loans in the future.

Rep. MICHELE BACHMANN (R, MN-6): Of the foundational policies of American exceptionalism, the concepts that have inspired our great Nation are the sanctity of private contracts and upholding the rule of law. This cramdown bill crassly undercuts both of these pillars of American exceptionalism. Why would a lender make a 30-year loan if they fear the powers of the Federal Government will violate the very terms of that loan?

Reference: Helping Families Save Their Homes Act; Bill HR1106&S896 ; vote number 2009-H104 on Mar 5, 2009

Voted YES on additional $825 billion for economic recovery package.

Congressional Summary:Supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization, for fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. DAVID OBEY (D, WI-7): This country is facing what most economists consider to be the most serious and the most dangerous economic situation in our lifetimes. This package today is an $825 billion package that does a variety of things to try to reinflate the economy:

  1. creating or saving at least 4 million jobs
  2. rebuilding our basic infrastructure
  3. providing for job retraining for those workers who need to learn new skills
  4. moving toward energy independence
  5. improving our healthcare system so all Americans can have access to quality treatment
  6. providing tax cuts to lessen the impact of this crisis on America's working families.

Opponent's argument to vote No:

Rep. JERRY LEWIS (R, CA-51): Most of us would agree that the recent $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is an illustration of how good intentions don't always deliver desired results. When Congress spends too much too quickly, it doesn't think through the details and oversight becomes more difficult. The lesson learned from TARP was this: we cannot manage what we do not measure. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.

Sen. THAD COCHRAN (R, MS): We are giving the executive branch immense latitude in the disbursement of the spending this bill contains. We are doing so without any documentation of how this spending will stimulate the economy. Normally, this kind of information would be contained in an administration budget. For items that have a short-term stimulative effect, most of us will feel comfortable debating their merits as an emergency measure. But there is a great deal of spending that is not immediately stimulative.

Reference: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; Bill H.R.1 ; vote number 2009-H046 on Jan 28, 2009

Voted YES on monitoring TARP funds to ensure more mortgage relief.

Congressional Summary:Requires specified depository institutions under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to report periodically on their use of TARP assistance. Requires federal banking regulatory agencies to examine annually the use of TARP funds made by the deposit institutions.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. BARNEY FRANK (D, MA-4): Last year, after we responded to the urgent pleas of the Bush administration to authorize the $700 billion deployment of Federal funds to unstick the credit markets, many of us became very unhappy, [because Bush] repudiated commitments to use a significant part of the fund to diminish foreclosures. If we do not pass this bill today, we will make no progress in what is the single biggest economic problem we've been facing, namely, the foreclosure crisis.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. RON PAUL (R, TX-14): There has been a lot of money spent to try to bail out the financial industry, and nothing seems to be working. I think it's mainly because we haven't admitted that excessive spending can cause financial problems, & excessive debt and inflation can cause problems.

Actually, the recession is therapy for all of the mistakes, but the mistakes come, basically, from a Federal Reserve system that's causing too many people to make mistakes. Interest rates are lower than they should be, so they don't save. That contributes to what we call "moral hazard" as well as the system of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac system. With the assumption that we're all going to be bailed out, people say, "Well, no sweat because, if there is a mistake, the government will come to our rescue." A private FDIC would never permit this massive malinvestment. There would be regulations done in the marketplace, and there would not be this distortion that we've ended up with.

Reference: TARP Reform and Accountability Act; Bill H.R.384 ; vote number 2009-H026 on Jan 21, 2009

Member of House Budget Committee.

Tonko is a member of the House Budget Committee

The U.S. House Committee on the Budget's responsibilities include legislative oversight of the federal budget process, reviewing all bills and resolutions on the budget, and monitoring agencies and programs funded outside of the budgetary process. The primary responsibility of the Budget Committee is the drafting and preparation of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget, commonly referred to as the "budget resolution." This resolution sets the aggregate levels of spending and revenue that is expected to occur in a given fiscal year. Hence each session of Congress, a budget resolution by law must be enacted by April 15.

Source: U.S. House of Representatives website, www.house.gov 11-HC-Bud on Feb 3, 2011

Increase debt limit from $14.3 trillion to $16.7 trillion.

Tonko signed America Pays Its Bills Act

A bill to increase the debt limit from $14.3 trillion to $16.7 trillion.

[Explanatory note from Wikipedia.com "Debt Ceiling Crisis"]:

The US debt-ceiling crisis was a financial crisis in 2011 that started as a debate in the Congress about increasing the debt ceiling. The immediate crisis ended when a complex deal was reached that raised the debt ceiling and reduced future government spending. However, similar debates are anticipated for the 2012 and 2013 budget. President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner announced on July 31 that an agreement had been achieved. After the legislation was passed by both the House and Senate, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act. On August 5, the credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating of US government bond for the first time in the country's history.

Under US law, an administration can spend only if it has sufficient funds to pay for it. These funds can come either from tax receipts or from borrowing. Congress has set a debt ceiling, beyond which Treasury cannot borrow. The Obama administration stated that, without this increase, the federal government would shut down and the US would enter sovereign default, thereby creating an international crisis in the financial markets. Alternatively, default could be averted if the government were to promptly reduce its other spending by about half.

An increase in the debt ceiling requires the approval of both houses of Congress. A large majority of Democratic legislators (who held a majority in the Senate) favored tax increases along with smaller spending cuts. Supporters of the Tea Party movement pushed their fellow Republicans to reject any agreement that failed to incorporate large and immediate spending cuts or a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

Source: HR2663&S1326 11-HR2663 on Jul 27, 2011

Voted YES on $900 billion COVID relief package.

Tonko voted YEA Consolidated Appropriations Act (COVID Relief bill)

NPR summary of HR133:

Argument in opposition: Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV-2) said after voting against H.R. 133: "Congress voted to spend another $2.3 trillion [$900 billion for COVID relief], which will grow our national debt to about $29 trillion. The federal government will again have to borrow money from nations like China. This massive debt is being passed on to our children and grandchildren. With multiple vaccines on the way thanks to President Trump and Operation Warp Speed, we do not need to pile on so much additional debt. Now is the time to safely reopen our schools and our economy. HR133 was another 5593-page bill put together behind closed doors and released moments prior to the vote."

Legislative outcome: Passed House 327-85-18, Roll #250, on Dec. 21. 2020; Passed Senate 92-6-2, Roll #289, on Dec. 21; signed by President Trump on Dec 27 [after asking for an increase from $600 to $2,000 per person, which was introduced as a separate vote].

Source: Congressional vote 20-HR133 on Jan 15, 2020

Raise small business depreciation to $125,000.

Tonko signed Small Business Growth Act

Bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow the expensing of certain real property. Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow small business taxpayers with gross receipts of $5 million or less to elect to expense certain depreciable real property in the year such property is placed in service. Limits the amount of such expensing allowance to $125,000, adjusted for inflation after 2009.

Source: H.R.3178 2009-H3178 on Jul 10, 2009

Establish a usury limit of 16% for consumer credit cards.

Tonko signed establishing usury limit of 16% for consumer credit cards

Section 107 of the Truth in Lending Act (15 U.S.C. 1606) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection, entitled "National Consumer Credit Usury Rate":

  1. LIMITATION ESTABLISHED--The annual percentage rate applicable to any extension of credit under, or any outstanding balance on, any credit card account under an open end consumer credit plan may not exceed 16 percent.
  2. INCLUSION OF CERTAIN FEES IN DETERMINING APR--In determining the annual percentage rate applicable to any credit card account, membership fees or annual fees shall be included in the finance charge [calculation].
  3. ADJUSTMENTS--the Board may make adjustments to the maximum annual percentage rate limitation when any such adjustment is in the public interest and economic conditions warrant. Any increase in the maximum annual percentage rate limitation [will be determined by] severe economic conditions, taking into account the prevailing bank prime rates, and statistical information the Board determines to be relevant.
    Source: National Consumer Credit Usury Rate (H.R.4300) 2009-H4300 on Dec 11, 2009

    Ban abusive credit practices & enhance consumer disclosure.

    Tonko signed Credit CARD Act

    Source: S.414 & H.R.627 2009-S414 on Feb 11, 2009

    $1.9 trillion ARPA bill for COVID relief.

    Tonko voted YEA American Rescue Plan Act

    This bill provides additional relief to address the continued impact of COVID-19 on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses:

    Rep. Kevin McCarthy in OPPOSITION (3/11/21): The so-called American Rescue Plan imposed a $1.9 trillion new burden on American families. Despite being branded as 'COVID relief,' only 9% of funds in this bill actually goes to defeating the virus, and almost half of the money, including more than 95% of the education funds, will not be spent until 2022 or later. After a year of struggle and sacrifice, students and parents get no answer to the vital question of when they can expect schools to reopen full time. President Biden wants Americans to believe 'help is on the way.' But under this bill, it isn't; waste is.

    Biden Administration in SUPPORT (2/26/21): ARPA provides the tools and support critical to tackle the urgent public health and economic crises the Nation faces as a result of COVID-19. The bill also provides eligible Americans with a $1,400 payment in addition to the $600 payment provided in December of 2020. The bill also extends key emergency unemployment benefits, and raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

    Legislative Outcome: Passed House 219-212-1 on 2/27/21; passed Senate 50-49-1 on 3/6/21; signed by President on 3/11/21.

    Source: Congressional vote 21-HR1319 on Feb 27, 2021

    2021-22 Governor, House and Senate candidates on Budget & Economy: Paul Tonko on other issues:
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    Open Seats / Turnovers 2022:
    AL-5: Mo Brooks (R) running for AL Senator
    CA-37: Karen Bass (D) running for mayor of Los Angeles
    FL-10: Val Demings (D) running for FL Senator
    FL-13: Charlie Crist (D) running for FL governor
    HI-2: Kai Kahele (D) running for MD governor
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    TX-1: Louie Gohmert (R) running for attorney general of Texas
    VT-0: Peter Welch (D) running for VT Senator

    Special Elections 2021:
    LA-2: Troy Carter (R, April 2021)
    LA-5: Julia Letlow (R, March 2021)
    NM-1: Melanie Stansbury (D, June 2021)
    OH-11: Shontel Brown (D, Nov. 2021)
    OH-15: Mike Carey (R, Nov. 2021)
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    FL 27: Annette Taddeo (D) vs. Maria Elvira Salazar (R)
    GA-7: Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) lost redistricting race to Lucy McBath (D)
    GA-10: Vernon Jones(R) vs. Paul Broun (R,lost May 24 primary) to replace Jody Hice (R) running for Secretary of GA
    ME-2: Bruce Poliquin (R) rematch against Jared Golden (D)
    MI-10: John James (R) - running for newly redistricted seat
    MI-11: Andy Levin (D) redistricted to face Haley Stevens (D)
    MT 1: Ryan Zinke (R) - running for newly created seat
    MT-2: Al Olszewski(R) vs. Sam Rankin(Libertarian) vs. Matt Rosendale(R)
    NJ-7: Thomas Kean Jr. (R) challenging Tom Malinowski (R)
    NY-10: Bill de Blasio (D) challenging Mondaire Jones (D)
    NY-11: Max Rose (D) challenging Nicole Malliotakis (R)
    NY 12: Carolyn Maloney (D) redistricted to face Jerry Nadler (D)
    RI-2: Seth Magaziner (D) vs. Allan Fung (R)
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    TX-34: Mayra Flores (R) - Elected SPEL June 2022; general election Nov. 2022 against Vicente Gonzalez (D)
    WA-4: Brad Klippert (R) challenging Dan Newhouse (R)
    WV-2: David McKinley lost a redistricting race to fellow incumbent Alex Mooney

    Special Elections 2022:
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    CA-22: Connie Conway (R) replaced Devin Nunes on June 7.
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    MN-1: vacancy left by Jim Hagedorn (R), deceased Feb. 17; SPEL on August 9.
    NE-1: Jeffrey Fortenberry (R) Resigned on March 31, after being convicted; Mike Flood (R) in SPEL on June 28.
    NY-19: Marc Molinaro (R) running for SPEL Aug. 23 for seat vacated by Antonio Delgado (D), now Lt.Gov.
    TX-34: Mayra Flores (R) SPEL June 14 for seat vacated by Filemon Vela Jr. (D)
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    Page last updated: Oct 05, 2022; copyright 1999-2022 Jesse Gordon and OnTheIssues.org