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Stimulus bad, money good

One week ago, Republicans celebrated their “unity” in opposing President Obama’s economic stimulus bill, which they claimed was flawed because of its heavy emphasis on spending. Then these same Republicans promptly went back to their districts to take credit for federal money that would soon arrive.

“Alaskan Congressman Don Young won a victory for the Alaska Native contracting program and other Alaska small-business owners last night in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” trumpeted the Republican in a press release, even though he voted against the legislation. California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert couldn’t wait to get his hands on the money he voted against (“All of us in the Inland Empire will do what we can to direct as much money as we can”), nor could New York Republican Rep. Chris Lee: “I obviously want to ensure I do fight for projects in western New York.”

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“Within the stimulus package there is some Pell Grant money, which is a good thing,” said Missouri GOP Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer. “It helps students be able to pay for their education, and that’s kind of a long-term stimulus effect there. I mean, obviously that’s not gonna provide a job in the next 120, 180 days, but the ability of someone to get an education is an economic development tool.” The Republican voted against this economic development tool.

Florida Republicans were stimulus-crazy. “This critical funding is vital to protecting our schools from budget cuts and teacher layoffs. Because Florida has been hit especially hard by a rise in foreclosures, unemployment and recent natural disasters, we are experiencing a crippling budget crisis. Now more than ever, we must invest in our state’s future,” read the letter signed by GOP Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, John Mica, Bill Posey, Adam Putnam, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Cliff Stearns. So interested were they in investing in their state’s future that they voted against the stimulus.

Missouri Sen. Kit Bond (R) bragged about $40 million in low-income housing funds the stimulus would bring to his state, despite his opposition vote. Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon said, without any hint of irony, “I figure my job is to try and do whatever I can to clear the hurdles and get the projects going and the people back to work using these funds.” New Jersey Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s press release page between Jan. 28 and Feb. 13 bragged about four federal grants in his district — all funded by programs heavily supported by the stimulus package he’d voted against.

The Republican desire to have it both ways even extends to candidate James Tedisco, the State Assembly minority leader in New York who is vying for the 20th district seat left vacant due to Kirsten Gillibrand’s appointment to the U.S. Senate. Republicans are eager to prove a resurgence, and the district appears to be only barely blue — Obama won 51-48 last year, but Bush took it, 54-46, in 2004.   

So what’s Tedisco’s view of the stimulus package? “Love the unemployment help that we need to bridge that gap. Love the infrastructure. They’ve got some nice tax cuts in there,” he said at a campaign spot. But would he vote for it? He refused to say, claiming he couldn’t answer a “hypothetical question”..” Republicans may claim they’ve got a winning political issue on their hands with stimulus opposition, but in this crucial swing district, their candidate is afraid to oppose it openly.

For a party that claimed the stimulus would prove unpopular and ineffective with voters, the behavior of these and other Republicans who seem remarkably unwilling to disavow it with their constituents sure suggests otherwise.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).