WASHINGTON, D.C.-"How about those House Republicans?" Sen. Jim DeMint said to a roomful of cheers at the Heritage Foundation after the House GOP uniformly rejected the proposed stimulus package at the end of January, energizing GOP lawmakers in both chambers.
It isn't just Republicans who objected to what they call a spending bill disguised as stimulus-so did 11 Democrats, four of whom are freshmen who will face tough reelections in 2010 in conservative districts. Most of them objected to the spending that wasn't directed toward infrastructure or job creation. House Democratic leadership let the insurrection pass because the bill passed-but they will be asked to pay in future votes where the outcome is less sure.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) began running radio spots early this month targeting 28 House Republicans who opposed the stimulus plan: "Did you know Congressman Joseph Cao voted against economic recovery to immediately create and save over 32,000 Louisiana jobs?" went one of the radio spots.
Some Democrats aren't worried about political risk because they're following the wishes of their fiscally conservative constituents. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, is a freshman who opposed the initial stimulus bill. "Walt has been encouraged from the beginning to vote his district," said John Foster, Minnick's spokesman.
Offices of the insurgent Democrats have received calls not just from their constituents but also from across the country, praising the members for their vote against the bill. But the Democratic leadership won't forget anytime soon the 11 who voted against the initial bill of what will be in all likelihood the biggest legislation the House undertakes this year.
The freshmen who will face tough reelection fights in 2010 are Parker Griffith, Ala., Bobby Bright, Ala., Frank Kratovil, Md., and Minnick, and they have already begun fundraising for the next election, with Bright leading the pack after raising $100,000 in December. He won his district by a mere 1,766 votes.
Others of the 11: Paul Kanjorski, Pa., Brad Ellsworth, Ind., Heath Shuler, N.C., Jim Cooper, Tenn., Allen Boyd, Fla., Gene Taylor, Miss., and Collin Peterson, Minn. Ten of the 11 are members of the Blue Dog Coalition.