Wednesday, January 28, 2009

House passes stimulus package, Republicans vote against helping the American people

By Michael J.W. Stickings

WaPo:

With no Republican support, the House approved an $819 billion stimulus plan that will serve as the cornerstone of President Obama's efforts to resuscitate the economy, an early victory for the new president but still a disappointment because of the lack of Republican votes.

The measure passed 244 to 188, with 11 Democrats and 177 Republicans voting against it.

The two-year economic package includes $275 billion in tax cuts and more than $550 billion in domestic spending on roads and bridges, alternative-energy development, health-care technology, unemployment assistance, and aid to states and local governments. It would also provide up to $500 per year in tax relief for most workers and more than $300 billion in aid to states for funding to help rebuild schools, provide health-care to the poor and reconstruct highways and bridges.

Read that again: The package includes both spending measures and tax cuts. The American people would get some tax relief, money to save or to spend, perhaps to pay the bills and put food on the table, and money would go to infrastructure projects, for energy and education and health care, to support those who need it, those who have lost their jobs at a time when the economy is bleeding jobs, and down to states and municipalities, to levels of government on the front lines of service provision.

You know what? It's not just about stimulating the economy, it's about helping people. It's responsive, responsible government action at a time when government action is desperately needed.

And, in the House, every single Republican voted against it.

Read that again: EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN VOTED AGAINST IT.

So much for bipartisan outreach. So much for Obama's efforts to be inclusive and to seek compromise with the other side. All the Republicans could offer was the same old tired formula of tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts, and, when it came right down to it, when it came time to pick a side, the Republicans sided, in unison, against the American people and the American economy.

Don't get me wrong. Like many others, I actually think there's a need for a much, much larger stimulus package. I would even argue (as I did here, yesterday, where I wrote that the Republicans -- "a mean, nasty mob of self-interested, partisan zealots" -- seem to hate America) that Obama and the Democrats should now do what needs to be done -- that is, pass a bigger, better stimulus package -- without bothering to engage in what has proven to be fruitless bipartisanship, that is, without reaching across the aisle and seeking GOP support. After all, if the Republicans aren't interested in helping the American people, why should the Democrats waste their time with them? The Senate is not the House, though, and it is perhaps there that Obama and the Democrats can secure some Republican support, which, if nothing else, would improve the optics of the stimulus package. As silly as it may be, or seem, given the ideological extremism of the House Republicans, it is still in Obama's interest that the package not be, and not be perceived to be, a purely partisan effort.

For now, though, the Republicans' true colours are bright and clear. They may wrap themselves in the flag, and they may play the patriotism card whenever and wherever possible, but they're actually the anti-American party. At a time when the American people need help, and when the new president and the majority party are willing and eager to rise above partisanship, the House Republicans, once again, put themselves before all else.

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