GOP lawmakers tout projects in the stimulus bill they opposed

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 13, 2009 

WASHINGTON — Rep. John Mica was gushing after the House of Representatives voted Friday to pass the big stimulus plan.

"I applaud President Obama's recognition that high-speed rail should be part of America's future," the Florida Republican beamed in a press release.

Yet Mica had just joined every other GOP House member in voting against the $787.2 billion economic recovery plan.

Republicans echoed their party line over and over during the debate: "This bill is loaded with wasteful deficit spending on the majority's favorite government programs," as Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., put it.

But Mica wasn't alone in touting what he saw as the bill's virtues. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also had nice things to say in a press release.

Young boasted that he "won a victory for the Alaska Native contracting program and other Alaska small business owners last night in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

One provision would have made it harder for minority businesses to win contracts, and Young explained that he "worked with members on the other side of the aisle to make the case for these programs, and was able to get the provision pulled from the bill."

Yet later in the day Young — who recently told McClatchy that he would've included earmarks, or local projects, in the bill if it had been permitted — issued another statement blasting the overall measure.

"This bill was not a stimulus bill. It was a vehicle for pet projects, and that's wrong," he protested.

That was more in line with the Republican message.

Young wouldn't return a request for comment on the apparent contradiction of his press releases.

Mike Steel, a spokesman for House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio, at first ducked when asked about Mica and Young issuing press releases praising the bill they'd opposed.

"I don't work for Mica or Young," Steel said initially.

But then he explained that what Mica and Young did in touting aspects of the bill was in fact consistent with the Republican message.

"Being supportive of one portion of a trillion dollar bill, but voting against the entire trillion dollar bill, is perfectly reasonable," Steel said.

Mica is the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and a longtime backer of high-speed rail. GOP committee spokesman Justin Harclerode explained that Mica saw the bill's $8 billion for rail as a "silver lining," and "he's encouraged others are supporting high speed rail too."

But nowhere in the Young or Mica statements was any mention that they opposed the bill.

Harclerode wasn't sure why Mica didn't mention his opposition. "It's not really secret," he said. "I guess it just wasn't the focus."

(Erika Bolstad contributed to this article.)

ON THE WEB

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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