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Breaking out the checkbook

"Breaking out the checkbook" Continued...

Issue: "Schock factor," Jan. 31, 2009

But that agreeable attitude is not without objections. In an apparent effort to recapture the GOP image as deficit hawks, McConnell has criticized attempts to include in the stimulus package pet projects like a Las Vegas museum of organized crime or a Miami water slide. Mayors from around the country have requested $73 billion for such public initiatives, claiming they will create thousands of new jobs. McConnell is stressing the need for targeted and temporary relief, rather than permanent government expansion.

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio

The House minority leader affirms the need for a stimulus package but has expressed significant concern regarding the size and scope of what many Democrats propose. Central to Boehner's apprehension are proposed infrastructure projects, such as bike paths and civic beautification. He contends that any spending on infrastructure must target only essential initiatives, such as widening highways or constructing needed buildings.

The bulk of the stimulus plan, he says, should go toward allowing "American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn." During preliminary stimulus discussions, Boehner stressed the urgency of quick passage and agreed that a President's Day deadline was attainable. But upon hearing the intentions of some Democrats to tweak the plan away from tax-cutting and toward long-term government expansion, he now doubts whether lawmakers can reach adequate compromise in such short order: "Whether we can do it in a responsible way that quickly is unknown."

Conservative lobbies and think tanks

While Republican lawmakers have expressed near universal support for an unprecedented government spending bill to spur the economy, many conservative lobby groups and think tanks remain unconvinced. The Heritage Foundation argues that the best means to soften the economic recession and speed up recovery is to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax reductions and to provide further tax breaks to small businesses and corporations via a 10 percent cut to the top rate. Brian Riedl, a Heritage budget analyst, calls Obama's approach a repeat of "1970s-style, big-government expansion." Club for Growth president Pat Tooney argues that Obama's plan is naive: "If government spending was all it took to avoid a recession or get out of one, how could we ever have one?"

But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a lobby group representing 3 million businesses that typically opposes government spending, contends that the current financial crisis amounts to a heart attack in need of shock from a big-spend defibrillator. Chamber president Thomas J. Donohue has praised the direction Obama is taking, which "includes not only tax cuts for workers and businesses, but also his strong emphasis on infrastructure."

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