The Senate passed a $26.1 billion state-aid bill this week that contains federal funding for Medicaid and education, and Democrats are hitting Republicans for their opposition on the campaign trail. In Washington, Sen. Patty Murray's campaign blasted Republican Dino Rossi for supporting his "lobbyist friends"; in Pennsylvania, Rep. Joe Sestak's campaign accused Pat Toomey of wanting to eliminate jobs for teachers, police officers and firefighters, and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman held a conference call with educators to voice displeasure with Toomey. Similar stories played out in North Carolina as Democrat Elaine Marshall criticized Sen. Richard Burr and in Iowa as Democrat Roxanne Conlin criticized Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Funding for state programs can supply a powerful talking point for Democrats during August, and it is one that we've seen play out repeatedly since President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package last year. Democrats can accuse their opponents of wanting to cost state jobs and turn down free money for states; Republicans opposed this bill on the grounds that it's just more stimulus.
Democrats used some unspent stimulus money to pay for this bill, so, in essence, it redirects some of that money and spends it faster. If you count the stimulus has having already been spent, the state aid bill was deficit neutral. Republicans have said they want stimulus money to be spent faster, if it's to be spent at all, so this bill actually brings Democrats closer to their view, but Republicans still don't like it, since they don't think any of this spending is wise anyway.
"Americans are fed up. They've had enough. The trillion dollar Stimulus bill was supposed to be timely, targeted and temporary. Yet here we are, a year and a half later, and they're already coming back for more," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.
As Democrats hit Republicans for opposing this bill, and as Republicans criticize the stimulus in response, we're likely to see the stimulus debate replayed in miniature this August and this campaign season.