By Joseph Goedert

Senator Sheldon on February 4 spoke on the Senate floor amid rumors of support for an amendment to strip health IT funding from the economic stimulus bill.

"Of all the dumb mistakes that we could make in this bill, that would be the very dumbest of all," Whitehouse told colleagues. "It would harm the immediate element of job creation that is important to this infrastructure. It would slow down the development of a national health information infrastructure. And it would compromise our ability to deal with the health care crisis that is looming just behind the economic crisis we are dealing with now."

Whitehouse argued that infrastructure improvements, beyond traditional brick and mortar projects, would create immediate jobs and long-lasting economic growth. "And fortunately, this bill goes beyond a definition of infrastructure as just the things that the Romans could have built," he said. "The last few decades have seen enormous innovation in this country. New communications platforms, the Internet and mobile phones, and new sources of energy. This technological revolution is transforming the way we live and work, just as the rail system did and the highway system did in decades and centuries past. And just as the federal government helped build the railways and highways, the bricks and mortar infrastructure of the 20th Century, today this recovery bill will support the digital infrastructure of the 21st Century. It is a dual benefit: jobs today and a platform for growth tomorrow."

Whitehouse acknowledged the "enormous amount of politics" now surrounding the stimulus bill. "But in order to try to make the politics look good, let's not hit what is probably the smartest and the best investment in the whole plan. One that not only works to provide jobs in a key American industry today, but that lays the foundation for addressing what is probably the next biggest most dangerous problem that is facing Americans behind this immediate economic crisis. Let us not be fools here in the service of political expedience."

For Whitehouse's complete speech, click here.

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