The G.O.P. Stimulus Divide

Congress includes 219 Republicans. To date, three of them have supported the stimulus. Perhaps that number will change when the House and Senate vote on the ...
by | February 12, 2009

Congress includes 219 Republicans. To date, three of them have supported the stimulus. Perhaps that number will change when the House and Senate vote on the modified legislation in the next few days.

Twenty-two of the nation's governors are Republicans. At least four of them have endorsed the stimulus plan and others, without a formal endorsement, have spoken positively of the legislation.

There are good reasons for Republican governors to be more supportive of the stimulus than their congressional counterparts. Governors, regardless of their party, are counting on federal budget help and a quick economic turnaround. Otherwise, they'll have to make painful budget cuts or raise taxes. The stimulus will probably help the chances of the ten or so Republican governors running for reelection in 2010.

Republican members of Congress, on the other hand, have the luxury of being able to take a longer view. They can worry about the long-term expansion of the national debt, for example, because their short-term electoral prospects aren't dependent on the economy improving by November 2010. Truth be told, they'd be better off (politically, not financially) if the economy doesn't recover right away, since that would hurt President Obama's approval ratings.

In this context, it's not surprising that Republican governors have viewed the stimulus more favorably than Republican congressmen. What's a little surprising, perhaps, is that Republican governors haven't been even more supportive of the concept.

The four endorsements I know of have come from Florida's Charlie Crist, Vermont's Jim Douglas, Connecticut's Jodi Rell and California's Arnold Schwarzenegger. All of them represent states that Obama won. Only Schwarzenegger is forbidden from seeking another term as governor.

One reason more Republican governors probably aren't supportive: They have national political ambitions. Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and South Carolina's Mark Sanford, both likely future presidential candidates, have announced their opposition. They'd be alienating a lot of conservatives (and turning their backs on their own conservative principles) if they supported hundred of billions of dollars in new federal spending.

Of course, regardless of which governors thought it was a good idea, when the stimulus passes and the feds start handing out money, I doubt any governor will say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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