Press Release

RELEASE: The Conflicted Fifty

February 2, 2009

By Daniel J. Weiss, Kalen Pruss

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WASHINGTON, DC–There has been a cascade of terrible economic news since President Barack Obama’s inauguration. To respond to the growing economic peril, the president and congressional leaders crafted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1, an $819 billion package of spending measures and tax cuts to create jobs. The act passed the House of Representatives on January 28 by a 244-188 vote. Only one day after President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to offer compromise and seek Republican backing, the recovery plan was opposed by 177 Republicans (one was absent) and 11 Democrats.

Of the 188 representatives who voted against the Recovery Act, 151 were conservatives—legislators who voted with the American Conservative Union two-thirds of the time or more. Although one may disagree with legislators who oppose all large spending measures, at least those that do have a logical consistency. Yet 59 of these conservatives (more than one third) voted for the $750 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (see chart). Of these, no less than 50 also voted against the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act, the $14 billion in bridge loans sought by the three Detroit auto companies.

The upshot: Fifty House conservatives voted to bail out Wall Street but opposed efforts to keep auto workers employed, and they were against Recovery and Investment Act spending increases and tax cuts designed to stave off the coming tidal wave of unemployment.

These conservatives point to a variety of reasons why they supported bailing out Wall Street firms just a few months ago but then decided not to help workers on Main Street through a severe recession Their excuses don’t hold much water.

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