By Mike Lillis
Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) this week defended his recent vote to provide billions of dollars to state Medicaid programs, arguing that the money is needed to protect vulnerable Americans amid tough economic times.
"In normal circumstances, individual states have the primary responsibility of maintaining a budget to meet the challenging economic times, and I don't believe that the federal government should be in the habit of closing these gaps," Castle said in an e-mail.
"However, I supported this aid package to states at a time of economic hardship in order to preserve vital medical services to the neediest of Americans and prevent layoffs within our education community."
Castle — who's vying to fill the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden (D) — was one of just two Republicans to support the Democrats' $26.1 billion state-aid package, which included $16.1 billion for Medicaid and an additional $10 billion for state education programs.
The House passed the bill in a special session Tuesday, and President Obama signed it into law later in the day.
Castle's vote drew criticisms from his primary opponent, GOP activist Christine O'Donnell, that the nine-term congressman caved to "special interest groups living high on the hog on the taxpayers' dime."
"Previous stimulus bills have failed," O'Donnell wrote in a fundraising e-mail blast, "yet career politicians like Castle don't seem to grasp that we can't spend our way to recovery."
Castle pointed out that the entire cost of the spending package was offset by tweaking the budget elsewhere.