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Senators Stick by 2009 Stimulus

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been drawing a parallel between the 2009 stimulus bill, which he says failed, and the president’s new $447 billion jobs proposal.

“More money was lost on Solyndra than came to my state to fix roads and bridges out of the entire stimulus package last year,” McConnell said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

On the floor last week, McConnell hit the point hard: “The president’s solution is to demand another Washington stimulus bill because the first one worked out so well. The first stimulus is a national punch line.”

Most Republicans argue that the stimulus, which the Congressional Budget Office in August said cost $825 billion over 10 years, did little to prevent the historically high level of unemployment, which hit 9.1 percent last month, or boost economic growth.

“Two and a half years after the president signed the first stimulus, there are 1.7 million fewer jobs in this country,
1.7 million fewer jobs after borrowing and spending $825 billion to create them,” McConnell said.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said last week, “Going down a path of more spending, higher taxes and more debt — which is what we got with the first stimulus bill — is not the solution.”

Collins and Snowe, who are known for their willingness to compromise across the aisle and buck their leadership, played key roles in passing the stimulus package in February 2009.

They were two of the three GOP votes that Democrats — who at the time controlled the House, Senate and White House — needed to get the bill through the Senate and to the president’s desk. The bill passed the Senate, 60-38, just clearing the filibuster-proof threshold.

During the runup to passage, Collins met with Obama and worked with other centrist Senators, including Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), to cut about $100 billion in spending from the plan, which at that point was more than $900 billion, in order to get it in a form that would draw bipartisan support.

Specter, the third Republican, was facing re-election in 2010 and switched parties in April 2009. His party switch was seen, in part, to be the result of his vote for the stimulus, which most Republicans saw as a betrayal. Specter was ultimately defeated in the 2010 Democratic primary by then-Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.).

At the time that the stimulus passed, Sen. John McCain crystallized Republicans’ thinking on their colleagues joining with Democrats in comments on the Senate floor.

“Many of my colleagues are claiming that the ‘compromise bipartisan bill’ that is before us is a product and result of serious negotiations, and it is neither,” the Arizona Republican said without naming the Senators. “It is neither bipartisan nor is it a compromise. It is not bipartisan in that three Republican Senators, after not a single Republican Member of the other body, the House of Representatives, plus 11 Democrats voted against this legislation.”

“So it is not ‘bipartisan,’” McCain said. “To say otherwise belies history.”

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