There is no upside for GOP in supporting Obama spending


Another day, another no vote.

After near-unanimous Republican congressional opposition to President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and a week dominated by headlines of GOP governors poised to reject stimulus funding, House Republicans followed up with another resounding “no” on the $410 billion omnibus spending package Wednesday.

This time, though, 16 members broke from the party line on a vote Minority Whip Eric Cantor had urged his colleagues to reject. And the cracks in the facade appear to be the first public signal of Republican rank-and-file squeamishness with a remarkably high-risk strategy that promises an uncertain return.

For Republicans, a central question looms: Is saying no to Obama’s agenda the way to get voters to say yes to an already beleaguered GOP brand?

Despite two consecutive election thrashings, and despite Obama’s high approval ratings and their own low standing, Republicans have wagered that the return to the majority is paved by unwavering opposition to further spending, an audacious bet that won’t pay out for another 21 months.

If Republicans are right, the economy will remain in tatters and voters will recognize in 2010 that the recovery was delayed by profligate Democrats and their president.

If the GOP is wrong, however, and the economy begins to show signs of life, the resistance will be easily framed as reflexive obstructionism, the last gasp of an intellectually bankrupt party.

The timing only heightens the stakes. Midterm elections are traditionally hostile to the party in power, which means Republicans will have a wind at their back for the first time in six years. But 2010 is also the election cycle that, across the nation, will begin laying the groundwork for the decennial congressional and state legislative redistricting, raising the prospect that, if Republicans are wrong, they could find themselves consigned to minority status for close to a generation.

“They just seem to be sitting back and waiting for the Democrats to come up with the plan so they can look for something to shoot at,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is locked in a battle with his home stategovernor, Mark Sanford, over money for unemployment insurance. “They’re making a calculated decision to just say ‘no.’”

Republicans don’t readily concede the risks inherent in their approach. In an acknowledgment of Obama’s popularity, they are carefully drawing distinctions in what exactly they oppose and trying to avoid going up against Obama’s formidable personal charisma.

“I think there is a rift between the popularity of the president and the unpopularity of Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi,” said Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). “[People] are pro-Obama, anti-stimulus.”

In some instances, Republicans also are trying to counter Obama on process, rather than on issues that may have broad popularity among their constituents. In the House, GOP leaders continue to complain that Democrats have blocked them from participating and have sought to draw contrasts with Obama’s rhetoric as he promises to tackle the massive budget deficit.

“This is fiscal responsibility week and you foist 9,000 earmarks on us?” said Kirk, who sits on the Appropriations Committee. “This seems poorly coordinated.”


The story really presents no upside for Republicans in supporting programs their constituents don't like. At best it would lead to a permanent minority status which is what Democrats and their media allies want for Republicans. By being a true opposition party the Republicans have an opportunity for historic gains when the Democrat policies screw up the economy. That is not a bad bet since they are doing things that will make us all poorer.

Democrats will deserve all the credit for the bad economy they are bringing on.


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