Despite their public condemnations of the economic stimulus plan approved last year, hundreds of Republican officials have been discovered holding secret crushes on this legislation, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The plan was approved with near-unanimous opposition from Republican lawmakers, yet interviews with Republican staffers, leaked documents and even public statements indicate that members of the GOP have been gushing over the stimulus since its inception.
Hints of a Republican love affair with the stimulus surfaced last week when a notebook owned by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was found in the hallway outside his Congressional office.
“Oh Stimulus, I watch you all the time from my desk and in the hallway but you don’t seem to know I’m alive. I’ve handed out the big checks that you made to my constituents and taken credit for your success, but you just don’t seem to notice,” one of the passages read. “I know you’ve created jobs in my state and in my district but I just can’t bear to admit it. Why can’t other legislation be just like you.”
The note was also sprinkled with several hearts, “xoxo” and the words “Johnny loves Stimmie.” When confronted with the notebook, Boehner’s face turned from its regular orange to a more slightly reddish color as he tried to grab it, but a game of “keep away” ensued between himself and reporters. Boehner then tried to deny the notebook was his, although his name and House office number were written on the inside cover.
Even though Boehner voted against the stimulus, his office also issued a press release in June, 2009 both attacking the recovery act as a waste of funds and praising its use on “shovel ready projects that will create much-needed jobs.”
The next day, several letters from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared in the recovery act’s mailbox with the letters “SWAK” on the envelope. McConnell denied sending the letters, although they were on his official Senate stationary and matched his handwriting.
An anonymous source provided a copy of one of these letters to the media, in which McConnell asked the stimulus to keep their love affair a secret on the grounds that his Republican friends “just wouldn’t understand” their relationship and “would totally freak out.”
McConnell has reportedly been spending a lot of time with stimulus funds for his state. He opposed the stimulus and voted against it, but took credit for the money it provided for an army depot in his state and said it “would be a source of significant employment.”
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) was reportedly overheard in a Washington bar bragging about how he and the stimulus “were this close” while holding up two crossed fingers. Cantor denied the story and said he thinks the stimulus is “like totally gross and uncool,” although some of his Republican friends remain concerned.
Cantor is one of three self-titled “young guns” in the GOP who have called for huge spending cuts across the board, including Medicare and Social Security, but not defense. Cantor himself opposed the stimulus but later held a job fair with companies that received stimulus funds. He also supported using stimulus funds for high speed rail projects in his state and said it would create 185,000 jobs, even though he derided high speed rail in other states as “pork barrel spending.”
Fellow “young gun” Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would not confirm whether Cantor and others in his party have crushes on the stimulus but did admit that he’s worried about their behavior.
“The other day Eric was wearing a large leather jacket with the button ‘stimulus rules’ on it. He said the jacket belonged to a friend but wouldn’t say whose it was,” McCarthy said. “I swear I saw him riding off on the back of a Harley yesterday afternoon, and when I called him later at home his wife didn’t know where he was.”
Several more lawmakers were exposed Monday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) grabbed a note being passed between Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Paul Ryan (R-WI). Pelosi held the note before the entire House chamber before reading it aloud.
“Hey Stevie, me and Joey think the stimulus is the bestest thing the Dems have ever done, signed Pauly,” Pelosi read as King, Wilson and Paul blushed and the other Representatives laughed. “Here’s the response, yeah Pauly I’m gonna let the stimulus help my district and take credit for it, but you won’t see me and stimulus in the hall together, signed Stevie.”
King took credit for $570,000 in stimulus highway funding. Wilson requested stimulus funds for his district to “provide jobs and investment.” Ryan publically called the stimulus a “wasteful spending spree” but requested funds for his district on the grounds that it would create 1,000 jobs there.
There is a long list of Republican lawmakers, who have shunned the stimulus but also tried to take credit for it. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) derided the stimulus but later said a stimulus-funded project “will create over 200 jobs in the first year and at least another 40 new jobs in the following years.”
The Republican Congressional delegation from Texas universally opposed the stimulus on the grounds that it wouldn’t help the economy, but most of them later requested $3 billion in stimulus funding for NASA to “help retain thousands of existing jobs within the aerospace industry.” Sens. John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rep. Ron Paul were among those signing the request.
“As a libertarian, I’m opposed to government spending unless it can help me get reelected or helps my own bottom line,” Paul said. “Even though I want to cut the entire federal budget down to the bone, when I think of all those stimulus dollars I’m requesting I get all gushy inside.”
Dr. Zachary Ornstein, a political science professor at Northwestern University, said Republicans are having a hard time dealing with their own guilt from massive spending during the previous Bush administration and the knowledge that the stimulus plan worked. In August the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported the stimulus created 2.5 million to 3.5 million jobs, mostly in the private sector.
“Republicans have a love hate relationship with spending. They love spending when they’re in power but hate it when they’re not. President George W. Bush led the GOP on such a huge spending orgy that they turned a record surplus into a huge debt with little to show for it. Net job creation during Bush’s term was zero, the worst of any president on record,” Ornstein said. “I think Republicans are still living in shame over that, which is why their forbidden love of the stimulus is so painful for them.”