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In a recent column in Investor's Business Daily , economist and political commentator Thomas Sowell said that President Barack Obama was trying to rush his health care bill through Congress. Sowell cited the quick passage of the economic stimulus bill in February 2009 as proof that Obama is too hasty in passing major legislation.
Sowell wrote that "the administration was successful in rushing a massive spending bill through Congress in just two days — after which it sat on the president's desk for three days, while he was away on vacation."
We wondered if Sowell was right, so we checked the bill's timeline.
It's important to note that the bill had been under discussion for at least two months before it was formally introduced. When Obama announced his selection of economic advisers on Nov. 24, 2008, he said he had asked his team to come up with a stimulus plan to help struggling automakers, stabilize the financial system, create jobs and invest in infrastructure.
A search of Thomas , the Library of Congress Web site that tracks legislation, shows that H.R. 1, the economic stimulus bill known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was formally introduced in the House on Jan. 26. (In fact, four days before the bill was formally introduced, it was discussed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.) On Jan. 28, two days after the bill was introduced, it was passed by the full House in a party-line vote.
The Senate took longer. Senators received the bill Jan. 29 and passed it Feb. 10.
Then, the House and Senate had to work out their differences in a conference committee. It finished work on Feb. 12.
Finally, on Feb. 13 — almost three weeks after the bill was introduced in the House — the final version was approved by both houses.
So it took nearly three weeks to pass Congress, not two days as Sowell claims. And the bill had been under discussion since at least November.
The second part of Sowell's claim was that that bill "sat on the president's desk for three days, while he was away on vacation." We checked with the White House, and a spokeswoman told us the president received the bill on Feb. 16, 2009, and signed it into law the very next day.
The Thomas Web site confirmed that. Although the bill was cleared for the White House by the Senate on Friday, Feb. 13, it wasn't formally presented to the president until the following Monday, Feb. 16. He signed it Feb. 17. Obama did spend that weekend in Chicago to celebrate Valentine's Day with first lady Michelle Obama, but the bill had not been formally presented to him, contrary to Sowell's claim that it was sitting on his desk. (Sowell did not respond to an e-mail from PolitiFact.)
Congress acted quickly on the stimulus bill — after all, the purpose was to rapidly pump money into the economy — but it took far longer than the two days that Sowell claimed. And Obama signed the bill the day after he received it, not three days later as Sowell claimed. We rate his claim False.
Thomas Sowell, Why the rush if reforms are four years away? , Investor's Business Daily, Sept. 8, 2009
Library of Congress Thomas site,
Timeline for H.R. 1.
, accessed Sept. 11, 2009
Congressional Quarterly, CQ BillTrack for H.R. 1., accessed Sept. 11, 2009
The Office of the President Elect, Economic Team Announcement , Accessed Sept. 14, 2009
NBC13, President Obama spends Valentine's Day in Chicago , Feb. 14, 2009
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