Republicans Campaign Against Stimulus While Campaigning for Stimulus Funds

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If the Republican Party's message during the midterm elections could be distilled into one word it that it has been campaigning against it would be: spending. The Republicans have been campaigning against spending without identifying any particular spending they would actually like to reduce. Except there is one particular program that they have been campaigning against: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Otherwise known as the stimulus.

In February of 2009 Congress passed the Recovery Act and President Obama signed it, with the intent to prevent the Great Recession from turning into the Great Depression 2.0. While Republicans have criticized the Recovery Act for being ineffective, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report that stated that the stimulus raised the gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.7% and 4.5%, lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7% and 1.8%, and increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million. Not exactly as ineffective as the Republicans claim. However, over the last year and a half the Republicans have consistently criticized the stimulus as ineffective, and the economy's achingly slow recovery coupled with persistently high unemployment has contributed to the public's overall negative view of the stimulus.

But, while the Republicans openly opposed the Recovery Act in Congress and criticized it in public, many of them worked behind the scenes to secure funds from the stimulus for their own districts. The Center for Public Integrity reported this week about a expansive letter writing campaign, where Congressional Republicans who voted against the stimulus sent letters to federal agencies requesting stimulus funds for projects in their districts. The Texas Observer reports that of the 22 Congressional Republicans from Texas, at least 16 officially requested stimulus funds from federal agencies.

More Below the Fold…After the Recovery Act was signed by President Obama, Michael McCaul, Republican Congressman from the 10th Congressional District of Texas, penned an editorial in the Houston Chronicle. McCaul wrote that the stimulus would not stimulate the economy and that it was a “one giant earmark, a massive collection of unnecessary spending, pet projects and kickbacks to well-heeled contributors.”  However, McCaul, along with fellow Texas Republican Congressmen Pete Olson and Ron Paul, submitted a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood requesting $81.3 million in funding for “construction of freight rail improvements in the Houston area.

In a press release Pete Sessions, Republican Congressman from the 32nd Congressional District of Texas, said that the stimulus was “more about stimulating the government and rewarding political allies than growing the economy and creating jobs.” However, Sessions then wrote three letters to Secretary LaHood requesting funds for a project in the suburb of Carrollton. Sessions claimed that the request for $81 million would “create jobs, stimulate the economy, improve regional mobility and reduce pollution.”

The typical response to inquiries to Republicans about their request for stimulus funds was that while they might be opposed to the stimulus their districts disserved their fair share. Of course don't expect them to mention where the funds came from. Michael Burgess, Republican Congressman from the 26th Congressional District of Texas, wrote a letter to Secretary LaHood requesting $61 million in funds to improve a congested rail intersection in Fort Worth known as Tower 55. In an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Burgess said that he received criticism from a constituent about the Tower 55 project but that he hadn't voted for it and he was only “supporting a grant request.”

As the midterms approach and the Republicans appear prepared to take control of the House of Representatives and make significant gains in the Senate, one question remains to be answered. How will the Republicans take credit for projects in their districts over the next two years without Democrats to pass the legislation?

Political and Social Thought…

to the Left of College Station

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