Stimulus Bill 2010 Politics

Posted: February 12, 2009 in Uncategorized
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The Hill’s Aaron Blake looks at the short and long-term political implications of the stimulus bill, with an eye on 2010.

The stimulus package has emerged as the first major campaign issue of the 2010 election cycle, and a Republican Party eyeing a return to the majority is going all-in.

The near-universal GOP opposition to the stimulus means that, for 2010 at least, Democrats own the result. Republicans, meanwhile, are in the awkward position of banking on it, at least electorally, to fail.

In the end, only three Republicans voted for the stimulus package — all in the Senate — while 11 Democrats voted against it — all in the House.

The only senator who is up in 2010 to break party ranks was Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is in the unenviable position of dealing with both a blue-trending state and a conservative backlash over the vote.

Potential primary opponents like former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and businessman Glen Meakem bristled at Specter’s vote and now have new motivation to challenge him next year.

“I really thought he was trying to avoid a primary challenge, and it’s very clear to me from this vote that he is really not anymore,” Meakem said, adding: “I think leading conservatives are going to coalesce around a candidate here in the next month or two.”

Another candidate with plenty riding on the vote is potential Senate candidate Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), who has taken to criticizing Democratic leaders over their conduct.

Shuler drew a sharp rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) after he said Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “failed” to make the package bipartisan.

Shuler is considered a top potential challenger to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in 2010. And even if Shuler stays in the House, he could face a tough race in a very conservative district.

Unlike Shuler, many of those breaking ranks on the stimulus vote are safe, including several Blue Dog Democrats and Republican Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Blue Dog member Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) is facing a primary challenge from state Sen. Al Lawson, meaning his vote could be a liability. In announcing his intentions Wednesday, Lawson signaled that the vote would be front-and-center in the race.

The Republicans’ strategy is clear: they want the Democrats to own this bill if it fails. But if the economy is in recovery by Election Day, the whole thing will blow up in their face, and the Democrats can label them as obstructionists who voted against the economic recovery. We’ll see who gets the last laugh in about 19 months from now.

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