Sen. Michael BennetMichael BennetCruz-backed candidate wins GOP primary in Colorado Colorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Ted Cruz chooses sides in Colorado Senate primary MORE (D-Colo.) broke with President Obama on Wednesday, saying he would not support any additional stimulus spending.
Bennet, who was endorsed by the president in Colorado but is facing a tough reelection fight, rejected the $50 billion public works program proposed by Obama earlier this week.
The statement is a sharp pivot for Bennet, who voted for the initial $787 billion stimulus plan backed by Obama in February of 2009. The freshman senator sounded more like a Republican than a Democrat on Wednesday, calling for any new spending to be funded through unspent stimulus dollars.
"Any new transportation initiatives can be funded through the Recovery Act, which still contains unused funds," he said. "Public-private partnerships that improve our infrastructure are a good idea, but must be paid for, should not add a dime to the deficit, and should be covered by unused Recovery Act dollars. We must make hard choices to significantly reduce the deficit."
Bennet's hard line on spending seems to reflect the tough political environment facing Democrats this fall, especially in states like Colorado. Some recent polling suggests that Republican candidate Ken Buck is leading Bennet in the Senate race there. Other polls, like a bipartisan one released Tuesday, suggest a closer race with Bennet in the lead.
Bennet has taken steps to distance himself from Obama since winning a very competitive Democratic primary. The president endorsed him during the race and worked on his behalf, but Bennet said the morning after the primary win that he'd "have to see" if he wants Obama to campaign for him this fall.
Bennet said he was still open to some tax credits to support the energy industry in Colorado.
National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) press secretary Amber Marchand responded:
“It’s about time that Senator Bennet acknowledged that his party’s reckless economic policies are hurting Coloradans, but his timing 55 days from the election is questionable at best. Voters deserve to know: Why didn’t Bennet bother to read the first costly stimulus debacle before passing it into law, and why didn’t he show this same ‘independence’ when he eagerly rubberstamped President Obama’s massive health care bill? Contrary to his rhetoric, Senator Bennet voted against using unused stimulus funds to offset government spending and he voted to raise our nation’s debt ceiling and max out the government’s credit card twice. As Michael Bennet frantically tries to distance himself from the out-of-control spending policies that he’s championed in Washington for the past year and a half, Coloradans know that their appointed Senator has been a reliable rubberstamp for the Obama White House when it mattered the most.”
Updated 1:58 p.m. and 7:23 p.m.