House GOP: No hypocrisy in seeking stimulus dollars after voting against bill

Amid mounting criticism, House Republicans said this week it is not hypocritical to vote against the stimulus and later seek money from it for their districts.

After standing united in opposition to the president’s economic stimulus bill a little more than a year ago, many Republicans have touted the benefits of that measure back in their districts, according to a comprehensive list compiled by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

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Citing the stimulus and other measures, the DCCC claims that 91 House Republicans are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

In recent days, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) have echoed the DCCC claims.

But key House Republicans argue that a vote against the stimulus bill should not prevent them from writing a letter on behalf of constituents seeking grants available from the $787 billion measure. Some of them do say, however, that Republicans should refrain from attending photo-ops.

Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), who is not in the DCCC’s “Hypocrisy Hall of Fame,” explained that when a measure becomes the law of the land, members have a responsibility to support certain requests.

Shadegg said, “Once the government has created the policy that says we are going to allow grants for this purpose or that purpose, then the policy is already established and it would be unfair to my constituents to say that because I thought the creation of this program was a bad idea, my constituents should suffer. I don’t think that makes any sense at all.”

That, Shadegg added, is not “taking credit” for the stimulus, as the DCCC has asserted.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said, “I voted against the economic stimulus bill, which clearly has been an absolute failure, but I’m not going to disallow my constituents the opportunity to apply for funds and I will help them if, where possible, it’s the law of the land. And so I see no disconnect between saying it was a lousy program, but it’s the law of the land and we’ve got to do the best we can to make it work for our constituents.”

Hensarling was not cited on the DCCC list.

Neither was New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett (R), who said, “It is a problem, in some respects, to go and tout it after you voted no for it, or to claim credit for it, but maybe it’s not a problem to say that this is what’s happening in my district. Letting the constituents know that tax dollars are coming back into the district is probably not a problem.”

However, a House Republican requesting anonymity said taking credit for projects that members rejected poses a slippery slope, especially as Republicans attempt to regain the upper hand on fiscal matters.

During an appearance on Greta Van Susteren’s show this week, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) said that to “take money from that package and go out and do photo-ops talking about how many jobs it creates does undermine your credibility.”

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Anti-earmark crusader Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told The Hill, “I don’t begrudge any Republican for, once it passed, to say, ‘My district shouldn’t be penalized,’ but to show up at the ground-breakings with an oversized check is a tad incongruent.”

GOP lawmakers have attempted to fend off the DCCC attacks, but their arguments are nuanced. While Democrats have a concise message on the alleged hypocrisy, Republican counterattacks take longer to explain. Under the adage of, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing,” Democrats have the upper hand.

Republicans, on the other hand, are quick to note that the White House incorrectly predicted that the stimulus would cap the nation’s unemployment rate at 8 percent. And unemployment, according to the GOP and independent political analysts, will be a big factor at the polls this November.
DCCC press secretary Ryan Rudominer said Republicans either need to admit the stimulus is a success or “come out in favor of canceling recovery funding in their districts.”