| Did anybody catch Dennis Rehberg's impassioned opposition to the recent House stimulus bill?
And yet, while Montanans are watching our economy keel over, the Pelosi-Obey "so-called" Stimulus Package that the House passed on Wednesday was packed full of new government programs, long-term spending and even a facelift for the grass on the National Mall.
Ultimately, it did more to stimulate the government than to stimulate the economy.
Rehberg said he wanted a stimulus package to be "timely, targeted, temporary, and transparent," and claimed that it didn't meet any of those criteria. Of course, it is all those things; the most efficient means to creating jobs and jump starting the economy is spending for unemployment and food stamps, spending that helps people keep their heads above water, and spending that's most likely to be directly injected into the economy in a meaningful way as soon as it's given out. Then there's the infrastructure investment, which puts money into workers' hands and returns tangible, useful roads, bridges, and rail to taxpayers.
But let's get past that for a moment. Let's say the stimulus bill is wasteful and ideological. Okay. So. What would the Republicans have trimmed from the bill?
Yesterday, the House Republican caucus released a list of "what they call wasteful provisions in the Senate version of the nearly $900 billion stimulus bill that is being debated." It is, to be sure, a pretty long list, identifying 32 specific spending measures that the GOP considers either wasteful, lacking stimulative value, or both.
Now, putting aside the merit of the provisions, I went ahead and did some back-of-the-envelope math, adding up the grand total of all of the measures in question. I came up with a total of roughly $18.7 billion....
While $18.7 billion is a serious chunk of change, it's also just 2% of the $884.5 billion package under consideration in the Senate.
In other words, after House Republicans carefully combed through the bill, searching for anything they could deem "wasteful," and finding 32 specific measures they found offensive, the GOP lawmakers are still comfortable with 98% of the Democrats' bill.
Better yet, check out the list. Among the expeditures the Republicans object to include purchases of computers for public community colleges, Amtrak funding, FBI salaries, renovation of public buildings, remediation of lead-based paint, etc & co. In short, the list contains mostly infrastructure projects; few, if any, long-term left-based "ideological" projects.
(For the record, I'd like to see the $2 billion for the "zero-emission" Illinois coal plant to be scratched, too. Same with the $246 million tax break for movie producers.)
So...let me get this straight. The projects the House Republicans object to...are mostly infrastructure projects...some of which would even pay for themselves (like buying hybrid vehicles for federal employees)...and comprise only 2 percent of the bill's entire proposed expenditure? And this is why all of the Representatives voted it down?
Yes, it was a political stunt. It has to be. There's no ideology in the programs marked by the GOP, there's none of what Rehberg, for one, claims was in the bill and should be hacked away. There's no long-term, social programs here. Politics. An attempt to divide the electorate, build an opposition bloc to, if not the overwhelmingly popular President Obama, than his allies in the Congress.
But, given the fact that 2% of the proposed bill seems easy enough to compromise, and given the stimulus bill's national popularity, look for some "compromises," a billion or two shaved here and there, and more Republicans supporting this thing, then claiming victory at having stood up to Obama and the Congressional Democrats, and "won."
In fact, when it comes back to the House after changes made in the Senate, expect Rehberg to vote for the bill, still touting its imperfection, but saying we need to do something now for the economy, even if imperfect. (After all, Montana is getting a lot of money in this thing...) That's how Rehberg operates. We've been down this road before with Real ID, CHIP and Mother's Day. You know the drill: Dennis Rehberg votes down a bill, trash talks it, then when he realizes people are paying attention, he turns around, supports the bill and claims he was for it all along.
Heck, he'll probably even use my patented, extra-handy "Double Backflip" template the next time you hear from him on the subject...