Republicans Ramp Up Fiscal Crisis Criticism

Posted March 11, 2009 at 6:08pm

Continuing their uphill hike to reclaim the mantle of fiscal restraint, Congressional Republicans have pivoted once again and are now hoping to join forces with the deficit-mindful members of President Barack Obama’s own party to attack his budget and high-priced Democratic spending bills.

House and Senate Republicans implemented a multifront public relations assault against Obama on Wednesday aimed at annihilating any attempts by the president to make inroads with Blue Dogs and other fiscally conservative Democrats who are nervous about continuing to vote for high-priced spending bills.

During a series of joint news conferences, Republican leaders repeated the mantra of “spends too much, taxes too much, borrows too much,— and derided Obama’s budget as too profligate for any Member who holds fiscal responsibility dear to support it.

“I think there is a lot of sticker shock among Blue Dog Democrats about the president’s budget. I’m hearing some very interesting rumblings coming out of that caucus,— said Mike Pence (Ind.), the House Republican Conference Chairman. “I think there are going to be a lot of Democrats that agree with Republicans that this budget spends too much, taxes too much, borrows too much, and we will in good faith make every effort to make common cause with any fiscally conservative Democrat.—

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) also predicted that Democratic Senators — especially those elected in the past two election cycles — would also consider joining Republican opposition to portions of the president’s budget.

“There are some Democratic Senators elected in 2006 and 2008 who I suspect are becomingly increasingly nervous about this much spending,— Alexander said.

But it remains to be seen whether the strategy will work. The Blue Dog Coalition has bought into not only the need to spend now to turn the economy around but the president’s commitment to long-term fiscal reform.

Any Blue Dog angst has primarily been focused on Democratic Congressional leaders, not Obama.

Republican attacks Wednesday were not limited to the budget.

Asked during a joint news conference with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about Democrats’ possible plans for a second stimulus package, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) responded by listing the spending bills already passed or in front of Members of Congress.

“Let me review the bidding of what’s happened thus far this year: We have a nearly $800 billion stimulus bill, a $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill. We have before us a $3 trillion budget for this fiscal year, we have several trillion dollars the Treasury Department or the [Federal Reserve] has loaned to banks, and now they want to spend more money?— Boehner said. “There is some point at which they will bury our economy under a mountain of debt.—

Boehner’s deputy, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of acknowledging that the original stimulus bill had failed by proposing that the Congress craft another.

“Just three weeks after President Obama signed his stimulus’ bill into law, Congressional Democrats are already conceding that it will fail to achieve its objective,— Cantor said in a news release.

Cantor added that Democrats would do well to again consider the Republican Economic Recovery Act, “which would revitalize struggling small businesses, help middle-class families and immediately rekindle America’s economy and create jobs.—

Cantor was not the lone Republican pushing an alternative to the Democratic stimulus bill Wednesday.

Across the third floor of the Capitol, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) were joined by several other Republican colleagues to unveil their “no-cost stimulus plan— that included offshore drilling, Arctic National Wildlife Reserve drilling and “regulatory streamlining— of oil shale, nuclear energy and environmental polices.

Vitter said Democrats should consider using the GOP plan as a framework for the second stimulus bill.

“It’s nice of them to attract attention to our ideas,— Shadegg said.

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.