In Opposing Stimulus, GOP Found Its Voice in Congress, Says Pence

By Josiah Ryan | January 29, 2009 | 8:49 PM EST

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, right, and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., left, listen as House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Va., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

( - In opposing President Obama’s $819 billion stimulus bill, House Republicans, the minority party in Congress, have found their voice, according to Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Conference. That view was echoed by Democratic Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), who told that he thinks the Republican Party is now run by hardline conservatives.
The near $1 trillion package passed in the House Wednesday, 244 to 188 – all the Republicans voted against the measure, joined by 11 Democrats.
Democrats, who said they hoped the spending bill would pass Congress with bipartisan support, accused the Republican leadership of sabotaging the vote by instructing their members to vote against it. Chairman of the House Financial Service Committee Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said the swell of opposition to the stimulus among Republicans was an indication that conservatives in the GOP were gaining strength.
“What you have seen is that Republicans, under John’s leadership [House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)] are finding their voice and getting into the fight,” said Pence, referring to the swell of opposition among Republicans to the stimulus package since it was introduced by Democrats earlier this month. “It would be accurate to say there has not been a whip effort on this bill to any great extent.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) had told on Tuesday: “Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor have already told their members to vote against it. They issued that before even discussing it with the president of the United States. They have taken a political stance: ‘Our party is going to oppose it.’  I think that’s unfortunate because it takes two groups to be bipartisan.”
On Tuesday, Hoyer said he hoped that a “significant number of House Republicans would see their way to voting for this bill.”
But Wednesday, hours before the vote, the Republican leadership maintained they had not whipped the vote among all Republicans, but instead claimed that their members had found their own reasons to oppose the legislation.
“It isn’t like there has been some big whip operation to whip members against the bill,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio.).  “It just didn’t happen. Members have looked at this bill over the last week and have determined that it just doesn’t meet the test.”
“Its massive wish list of dusty old liberal spending priorities that have been brought forward under the guise of stimulus” helped provoke the opposition, said Pence. “The Democratic bill won’t stimulate anything more than more government and more debt.”
 Specific Republican complaints against the stimulus bill included $50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, $400 million to pay for global warming research at NASA, and $600 million for digital TV subsidy coupons.
In a meeting with Republican House members on Tuesday, Obama addressed some of the concerns and, according to one member in the meeting, recognized some “legitimate” Republican gripes that were removed from the bill later in the day.
But Rep. Frank told that none of the Republican complaints against the package he had seen were “legitimate,” and said the bill’s content was just the  “the consequence of an election.”
“No,” Frank told on Wednesday. “Their complaints against the stimulus are not legitimate. You are talking about very right-wing people who thought George W. Bush was leading us to socialism. I think they have a very flawed view of the way the economy works, which is basically you leave the market entirely on its own and when there are problems, you just live with them.”
“The Republican Party today is controlled by the most conservative elements,” Frank added.

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