By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Rumors of a split between Republican governors and members of Congress may be overblown.
While no congressional Republicans supported the stimulus plan, the New York Times reported today, several GOP governors have weighed in in favor of it. But some of the most influential Republican governors—including those most likely to run for president in three years—opposed the package.
In terms of presidential politics, the most notable name in the Times piece is Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who campaigned with Obama for the stimulus package last week. Glaringly absent from the Times piece were governors like South Carolina's Mark Sanford, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Mississippi's Haley Barbour and Alaska's Sarah Palin—all governors recently named in the Washington Post's excellent "The Fix" column as being among the five most influential and powerful voices in the Republican Party (the other person named was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney). Palin and Jindal are often named as contenders in 2012, and Barbour gave 2008 a long look before passing on it. Sanford is chairman of the Republican Governor's Association.
None of these sitting governors liked the stimulus package.
Palin released a statement saying that spending in the bill had ballooned and included programs that didn't respond to the problem at hand. "You're going to have the Chinese and other foreign governments buying up more U.S. debt," a Palin spokesman warned. And Palin did also lobby to make sure that Alaska got bucks in the deal. (Where have we heard that tune before?) Whether Alaska will take the money remains unclear.
Barbour opposed the bill. Jindal, a former House member, has said that he would have voted against the bill and is also unsure whether his state will take the federal bucks. (Both men apparently want details on what sort of strings are attached and whether it leaves states with unfunded mandates in the long run.)
Sanford opposed the bill (it will "hurt, not help" people) and has said his state will refuse the money.
Where do the rest of the GOP governors stand on this? There is an ongoing debate, but it's interesting to follow—especially since some number of these folks will be running for president in three years.
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Updated on 2/19/09: An earlier version of this blog post asserted that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford had said he would reject federal stimulus spending. The source was a report from the Online NewsHour, to which I linked. Sanford's spokesman subsequently notified me that the governor has not said one way or another whether he will let South Carolina accept the federal cash.
Updated on 2/18/09: An earlier version of this blog post contained an incorrect version of Sarah Palin spokesman Bill McAllister's quotation about the Chinese and other foreign governments buying U.S. debt. He said "more U.S. debt," rather than "your U.S. debt." I had taken the misquote from a KTUU.com article (to which I linked).