Grand Old Party? No, Just Grandstanding!

From the Los Angeles Times:

Reporting from Columbia, S.C. — Would a governor in a state with the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation really say no to President Obama’s stimulus money?

That is the question reverberating through South Carolina, where Republican Mark Sanford — a popular second-term governor and noted fiscal conservative — says he may reject some of the $2.8 billion in federal funds headed to his state.

Some observers suspect that the governor, who is regularly mentioned as a presidential contender in 2012, is just grandstanding. It’s hard for them to imagine a lawmaker leaving millions of dollars on the table in a state with a 9.5% unemployment rate — one that has cut hundreds of millions from its budget in recent months, and will cut millions more in the next fiscal year.

Original DVD cover.

“I don’t know whether this is some presidential politics underway, and just headline [grabbing],” said Republican Glenn F. McConnell, president pro tempore of the South Carolina Senate.

But others said they wouldn’t be surprised if Sanford tried to send something back. The 48-year-old real estate entrepreneur has earned a reputation as a fiscal hawk since his 1994 election to Congress as part of Newt Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution.” As governor, he has vetoed hundreds of projects in the name of budgetary restraint, earning the ire of both Democrats and Republicans.


For some out-of-work South Carolinians, even the suggestion of rejecting bailout money fills them with outrage. William Williams, 38, a laid-off telecommunications worker, had a message for Sanford as he searched futilely through a computerized job bank in Marion County, a struggling industrial area where unemployment has reached 19%.

“Stop playing politics with my life,” Williams said, looking at his unemployed brother James. “If you ain’t going to help your people . . . ”

“Then get on out the way,” James said.


Although a majority of Republican governors, including California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida’s Charlie Crist, have supported the stimulus, a few have emerged as vociferous opponents of the legislation. Sanford leads a group of GOP governors — including Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Sarah Palin of Alaska — who have left open the possibility that they could try to send a portion of the money back.


[Sanford’s] threat to block South Carolina’s share of the money prompted Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, to insert language that allows state legislatures to accept stimulus money even if it is rejected by a governor.

But governors may have other tactics at their disposal, like ordering agency heads not to spend the cash.


No matter what course they take from here, the political stakes will be high as the governors jockey for leadership of a Republican Party eager to retool for 2012. If the stimulus package is deemed a failure in the coming months, politicians like Sanford could be seen as prophetic, and lead a resurgence of fiscal conservatives within the GOP. But if the recovery plan proves popular, fiscal hawks could lose ground to stimulus supporters like Crist.


Sanford, in an interview at the statehouse last week, said politics weren’t a factor in his dissent.


Some of his issues with the stimulus money were specific: He worried that some would be used to fund programs that the state may not be able to afford after the one-time federal subsidy is gone.


But Sanford, the head of the Republican Governors Assn., has broader concerns as well. He fears that excessive government borrowing to fund the stimulus could lead to an inflationary spiral to rival Weimar Germany’s. He fretted over a “moral component” to multi-trillion-dollar debt — that it was a “future tax” that must be repaid by generations to come.

To critics like Democratic state Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston, the governor’s threat to reject some of the stimulus is the latest example of an unwavering belief in free-market ideals that are detached from the realities facing many South Carolinians.


Now, as South Carolina’s economy threatens to get even worse — the state Board of Economic Advisors predicts unemployment at 14% by June — it remains to be seen if Sanford’s supporters will continue to agree with his principles.

Part of that may depend on the kinds of battles in which Sanford chooses to engage. Last year, he was criticized by some fellow Republicans for refusing to apply for a $146-million loan from the federal government to cover the state’s unemployment benefits fund. He relented under pressure.

This just in…

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Even Republican governors who have said they will reject some of Washington’s stimulus money will end up taking much of the funding, the leader of the National Governors’ Association said on Saturday.

“In the end … most of the governors will accept most of the money and use it for the benefit of their citizens,” said Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Edward Rendell, at the association’s annual meeting.

In the four days since President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion economic recovery bill into law, providing increases in federal backing for states’ social services, infrastructure and education funding, at least two Republican governors have said they may not take all of the money.


Mississippi’s Republican Governor, Haley Barbour, told reporters at the meeting he would decline some $50 million in extra unemployment insurance funding, because it includes a condition for expanding the benefits to more people.


Even if governors turn down money, the economic recovery law includes a provision allowing state legislatures to override governors. Barbour added that “100 percent of the governors are going to take some percentage of the funding.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has often been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate for the 2012 elections, said late Friday he too would not take Louisiana’s portion of the unemployment money.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission estimates that would total $32.8 million over three years, but once the stimulus plan ended the state would have to cover the benefits at roughly $12 million a year.

Many U.S. mayors have worried much of the stimulus money will be delayed at the state level and not reach cities in time to help them. Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, Louisiana, said on Friday that because of Jindal’s possible presidential aspirations, the governor has “a certain way he has to talk right now.” Nagin added, “any dollars he does not want, we will take them gladly.”

But in Maryland where unemployment has spiked in recent months, Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley said his state had no problem with the unemployment provisions in the law.

“I don’t believe they’ll cause tax increases or spending increases,” he said. “We welcome the unemployment dollars.”


“There is not a state in this union that is going to be able to use this stimulus money and wipe away all of the problems and all of the challenges that we face,” Rendell said, adding that $1 billion in spending still had to be cut recently from Pennsylvania’s budget.

The assistance for states will only “partly close budget gaps in fiscal 2009 and 2010 that are estimated to total between $100 billion and $350 billion,” credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Services said on Wednesday.

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, a Republican, said his state recently cut its transportation budget in order to preserve funding for education and other social services.

“Now the stimulus money comes in and it basically allows us to backfill in many of these critical areas like public and higher education and healthcare,” he said. “So we can now take the transportation money that was taken off the table a couple of months ago back to where it was originally intended. Our transportation budget is going to be whole.”


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20 responses to “Grand Old Party? No, Just Grandstanding!

  1. Ram Venkatararam

    It’s just frightening to see people playing political games right now. I don’t have a clue what the right answer to any of this is – but I’m pretty sure putting your own political career above the needs of your constituents isn’t going to help.

    • Friend of the court

      “putting your own political career above the needs of your constituents”, is just business as usual.

    • ram,
      there is no right answer. no matter what is tried, someone is going to find a problem with it. however, doing nothing is not going to help, so, in this case, something is better than nothing. things are so bad now that, if the stimulus doesn’t work, how much worse can it get? all we can do is keep our fingers crossed, hope for the best, and keep a vigilant eye out for those who are abusing the system.

  2. Ram Venkatararam

    @friend of the court – I agree it is business as usual. I guess part of me was just hoping that with the new government and the new economic reality people would give their heads a shake and we’d see less of this.

    • Notice it’s all on the losing side. Maybe that’s not a coincidence.

      • it’s all they’ve got. they don’t have any ideas, so all they have is negativism and distraction. unfortunately for them, the other rethug governors and most of the legislatures don’t agree with these morons. my guess is that they might like that, because they can run next time as the new mavericks.

    • ram, dahling,
      you can now hit the reply command at the end of someone’s comment in order to answer them. you can do it at the food here convenience store blog, too. just go to settings, then discussion, and select the nested comments (i think that’s what it’s called).

  3. nightowl724

    I love watching Rethugs shoot themselves in the foot – or maybe mouth in this case! Now, that’s what I call tough!

    • it’s quite entertaining to watch them shoot themselves in whatever body part is handy. however, when it makes the difference between having a job and/or a home for the people in their states, it’s not so funny anymore. clyburn was pretty slick for adding the part about the legislature being able to override the governors.

      • nightowl724

        I can’t understand ANY governor saying “no,” but most of all Jindal. At least Crist isn’t following his path. For sure, many states are suffering, but FL and LA haven’t begun to recover from Hurricane Katrina yet and they need all the help they can get…

        • nightowl,
          i think you meant louisiana and mississippi. katrina didn’t hit floriduhhh. i don’t think crist is being reasonable just because it’s the right thing to do, i think he’s going to run for senator. otherwise, he would probably be in lockstep with the other rethugs. that $hithead, bill mccollum, who is attorney general now, is suddenly doing commercials about some program his office has for stopping people who prey on kids online. of course, it’s just free advertising for him to run for governor or senator. i despise him.

          • Actually, Katrina did hit Florida, just after it became a category 1 storm. A friend of mine lives in Homestead and the storm passed right over her. Flooded out her neighborhood, knocked out power, and closed schools.

            • đŸ˜³ you’re correct! it did hit here, and 3 people were killed. i guess it didn’t stick in my mind after seeing what it did in louisiana and mississippi.

  4. nonnie

    there is this provision in the bill that assholes like jindal, palin and sanford will rely on…

    If funds provided to any state in any division of this act are not accepted for use by the governor, then acceptance by the state legislature, by means of the adoption of a concurrent resolution, shall be sufficient to provide funding to such state.

    in other words they can stand on principle and let the state legistatures get the money for them

    how fu¢king convenient

    • dcAp,
      in the article, it said that clyburn knew that sanford would pull something like this and included the part where the legislatures could accept the money, but the governors can still tell the heads of state agencies not to spend the money. if they do that, though, i think the people will revolt. nothing more aggravating than knowing money is there to spend on much needed things and not being allowed to touch it.

  5. While I understand why our Bush-loving prick of a Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) pretended that he didn’t want to take the money, the most shocking governor was Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
    Louisiana after Katrina still looks like $hit, with tent cities under freeways and unemployment and crime running rampant. That state is as broke-ass as it gets, and for Jindal to play politics at a time like this is disgraceful.
    And he has presidential aspirations?

    • karen,
      i hope the dems take full advantage of this and scream constantly from the rooftops that the rethugs care only about their own aspirations, not the huge problems of their constituents.

  6. propagandee

    On Meet the Ex-Press, Jindal’s rationale for turning down the unemployment funds was disputed by LA Senator Landrieux, viz a video clip that David Gregory played. Jindal gave some BS response which Gregory let stand without comment.


    • hi propagandee! đŸ˜€
      i just watched the first rerun of mtp, but, to tell you the truth, i didn’t pay a lot of attention to the jindal segment. i’ll have to catch it on the wee-small-hours-of-the-morning rerun. the excuses being given by all the morons have been disputed by fellow rethugs and just about everyone else. let ’em keep flappin’ their lips and continue to be the naysayers. they are giving their opponents plenty of ammunition for future elections.