Obama, GOP Pick Stimulus Fight in Arizona
By Dan Eggen
A Republican proposal to halt spending on federal stimulus projects has prompted a partisan dustup this week in Arizona, where defeated GOP presidential candidate John McCain has waded into the fight with his old Democratic rival, Barack Obama.
The conflict began after Arizona's junior senator, Republican Jon Kyl, who has called President Obama's economic recovery plan ineffective, wrote on his Senate website last week that the government should "cancel the rest of the stimulus spending." Kyl repeated the suggestion during a talk show appearance Sunday.
The Obama administration responded Monday with letters from four Cabinet secretaries to the state's GOP governor, Jan Brewer, outlining the transportation, housing, education and other projects that would be canceled in Arizona if stimulus spending came to a halt.
"If you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to your state, please let us know," wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a fellow Republican and former House member.
The letters prompted howls from Kyl and other Republicans in Arizona, who accused the Obama administration of threatening and bullying the state. "I strongly support the comments of Senator Kyl and call on the administration to retract its threat against the citizens of Arizona," McCain said in a statement.
The flap underscores the dangers for both sides in the debate over the $787 billion stimulus package, which has come under increasing attack from Republicans as the unemployment rate continues to climb. But many Republicans who voted against the package have also sought to take credit for projects in their own states, and the White House has become increasingly aggressive in pressing its case.
Last week, for example, Vice President Biden traveled to Ohio to urge patience and attack Republicans for seeking to "do nothing" to improve the economy. House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) argued that the stimulus "clearly isn't working" and pointed to his state's continued high unemployment.
Letters to Arizona's governor were sent by LaHood, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. The letters detailed more than $1 billion in Arizona projects that they said would be put at risk if stimulus funding was stopped. Nationwide, the administration says, only about 7 percent of the stimulus money has been allocated so far and most of the impact of the spending will be felt in late 2009 and throughout 2010.
After the letters were released, Kyl accused the administration of "coordinated political attacks with the Democratic National Committee and politicization of departments of government by using cabinet secretaries to issue thinly veiled threats." But he also reiterated his view that Obama should "consider whether the unallocated stimulus money could be put to better use."
Posted at 1:11 PM ET on Jul 15, 2009
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