Finally. House Republicans discovered that they do not have to vote for Barack Obama’s stimulus in the name of bipartisanship when the package doesn’t provide stimulus and instead focuses on Democratic pork wish lists. Minority Leader John Boehner and GOP whip Eric Cantor have instructed the Republican caucus to oppose the massive $825+ billion legislation, which some now call the Pelosi-Reid-Obama Debt Bill:
President Barack Obama is coming to the Capitol this afternoon to curry favor with congressional Republicans. But it appears GOP leaders have already made up their minds to oppose his $825 billion stimulus plan.
House Republican Leader John A. Boehner and his No. 2, Whip Eric Cantor, told their rank-and-file members Tuesday morning during a closed-door meeting to oppose the bill when it comes to the floor Wednesday, according to an aide familiar with the discussion. Boehner told members that he’s voting against the stimulus, and Cantor told the assembled Republicans that there wasn’t any reason for them to support the measure, according to another person in the room. Cantor and his whip team are going to urge GOP members to oppose it.
In a nod to the president, Boehner did point out that this is the third time that Obama has met with Republican leaders, compared with the zero meetings they’ve held with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — a now-familiar refrain from Republicans in the House. But Obama’s diplomacy clearly isn’t buying any votes yet.
President Obama plans to meet with Boehner and other Republican leaders today to change their minds, but the Republicans appear to have stiffened in their opposition. The new assessment by the CBO has given them some momentum, as it shows that most of the money won’t get spent in time to stimulate anything except Democratic donors and special-interest groups. Nancy Pelosi hasn’t yet met with her counterparts yet either, which makes Boehner much less likely to cooperate if Republicans have no chance at amending the legislation.
Obama will have to answer some tough questions about the bill if he wants to move Boehner out of the way and onto his team. David Winston spells some of them out in his latest Roll Call column:
Anyone who has ever worked in the federal bureaucracy knows that regardless of who is president, it moves at a snail’s pace. Billions of dollars in grants to individuals, private groups and the states are doled out every year as part of the federal government’s normal budget process, and it takes months, if not years, to get the funds to qualifying recipients.
Why should we assume that the federal government will suddenly become a model of efficiency, getting stimulus checks out the Treasury door? While we now await a “revision” from the CBO, no doubt duly chastised by its Democratic bosses, chances are the CBO got it right the first time.
As we have seen with most government-created “infrastructure” projects going back to the Great Depression, they simply don’t fix the unemployment problem. The private sector does.
Okay, so the bill isn’t timely. What about targeted? When you’re spending $825 billion on everything from contraception to broadband communications, it’s difficult make that claim. Some of the proposed spending reflects some good thinking, putting money toward information technology in the health care arena or in underserved rural areas, for example.
But that kind of targeting ought to come through the annual appropriations process that allows time for serious debate and a healthy exchange of ideas. Instead, much of the spending, as it stands now, seems to be little more than gifts to important Democratic constituencies.
This bill has become much less about stimulus than about power-building for a permanent Democratic majority. Republicans fell into that same trap once they controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress, too. However, I think they waited longer than a week to try it, and eventually it cost them power.
Boehner is right both on politics and on policy to oppose this boondoggle. It won’t improve the situation at all, and in fact will make matters worse by moving capital out of the markets and into government bureaucracies. Republicans need to stand their ground while offering positive alternatives to this massive spendocracy that Democrats have launched. Economic policy matters, and the debate goes straight to the core values of both parties. It’s during times like these that we need full debates and as much sunlight as possible. If Republicans don’t stand up now, they won’t find many more reasons to do so in the next two years.
Update (AP): Here’s video of the House leadership taking a pass on the crap sandwich. I agree that they’re right on policy but disagree about the politics of it. Like I said a few days ago, if the economy’s recovering by the time of the midterms — for whatever reason — the Democrats and the media will claim we owe it all to the stimulus. A party-line no vote is a bet that things will still be getting worse, not better, by November 2010.
I wonder: Is it a bluff?