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Republicans have been singing this campaign season about federal spending, hoping their charge that Democrats are spending too much money too fast strikes a chord with voters. Jim Renacci, who is challenging incumbent John Boccieri in Ohio's hotly contested 16th Congressional District, has joined the chorus.
"Boccieri voted to spend a billion dollars an hour, every hour, for his first 50 days in office," Renacci's campaign website says.
That's a serious Congressional shopping spree, one that PolitiFact thought we should check out.
We started with the Renacci campaign, asking it to cite a source for its data. Campaign Manager James Slepian sent us to a posting on Politico by Mike Allen, who was reporting on a comment by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
McConnell, on the 51st day of Barack Obama's presidency, decried spending by the Democrat-controlled Congress, saying "In just 50 days, Congress has voted to spend about $1.2 trillion between the Stimulus and the Omnibus. To put that in perspective, that's about $24 billion a day, or about $1 billion an hour - most of it borrowed. There's simply no question: government spending has spun out of control."
Here's how the math works. The combined totals of the the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus bill (about $787 billion) and the Omnibus Spending Bill for 2009 (about $410 billion) is about $1.2 trillion. The Senate passed the omnibus bill on March 10 -- Day 50 for the Obama administration (the stimulus package was approved in February). Divide $1.2 trillion by 50 days and you get $24 billion a day, or $1 billion an hour.
But McConnell's statement used a slightly different time frame than Renacci's statement. The 111th Congress convened its first session on Jan. 6, two weeks before Obama's inauguration. But coincidentally, the House votes on the omnibus bill and the stimulus package also fit a 50-day window. The House approved the final version of the stimulus bill on February 13 -- Day 29 for the House to be in session. The omnibus spending bill was approved Feb. 25 -- Day 50.
Boccieri voted in favor of both bills.
So the calender works, and the math works, theoretically. But there is a point about the math that needs to be clarified.
It is true that the total for those two bills is about $1.2 trillion. And that can be broken down to $1 billion an hour, every hour, for 50 days. And Congress voted to spend that total.
But Congress did not vote to spend it by the hour, nor did it spend it within that 50 days.
The omnibus spending bill provided money to fund the government for all of 2009. And as Michael Scherer noted in his Swampland blog for TIME magazine that March, even if John McCain had been the new president and Republicans had controlled Congress, most of that spending would have been approved anyway. "No Republican has proposed not funding the government. ... And Republicans would still have needed to find a way to pass the omnibus in the first weeks of the new year."
As for the stimulus money, it was projected to be spent over several years, although the bulk has been awarded at this point. As of Aug. 20, $505 billion of the $787 had been awarded in tax benefits, entitlements and contracts, grants and loans.
We rate Renacci's statement as Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
H.R. 1, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted Feb. 17, 2009
H.R. 1105, Omnibus Appropriation Act, 2009, enacted March 11, 2009
Politico, "Congress at work: '$1 billion an hour," by Mike Allen, March 11, 2009
TIME, Michael Scherer's Swampland blog, "The Math Behind A 'Billion Dollars An Hour," March 11, 2009
CQ Weekly, "New CBO Deficit Estimate Signals Rougher Road for Obama’s Budget," March 23, 2009
Recovery.gov, Overview of Funding, updated Aug. 20, 2010
Recovery.gov, Funding Awarded by States, updated Aug. 24, 2010
Jim Renacci for Congress, Spending issues page, accessed Sept. 1, 2010
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