- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

Sensing a political opening, congressional Republicans on Thursday said talk of a possible second stimulus spending program for the battered U.S. economy was proof that President Obama’s first $787 billion stimulus effort had failed to do the job.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said it was far too early to tell whether the first stimulus law had worked, even as Mrs. Pelosi backed away from comments she made earlier this week suggesting an openness to consider another big government spending effort this year to jump-start the economy.

“I don’t think you ever close the door to being prepared for what eventuality may come, but I think that is not a near, near thing,” the California Democrat said. “I would really like to focus on the first one.”

But Republicans, who voted almost unanimously against the stimulus bill earlier this year, said the preliminary planning for another stimulus bill by Democratic leaders proved their point.

“Our [Democratic] colleagues, our colleagues are talking about a second stimulus package, a second spending package. That, in and of itself, is recognition that this first stimulus package didn’t work,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee. “Now, if it didn’t work the first time, why would it work the second time?”

The Republican Study Committee, a policy group set up by House Republicans, mocked the idea of applying a second dose of stimulus medicine.

“When Albert Einstein saw people doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, he called it insanity. Democrats call it progress,” the group said in a statement.

Private economists briefing Democratic congressional leaders Tuesday opened the door to the renewed stimulus talk, saying the sharp decline of the U.S. economy - including a jobless rate over 8 percent and climbing - suggested that Mr. Obama’s first stimulus package may not have been big enough to revive economic demand and reverse the recession. But even Democrats on Capitol Hill said there was little appetite to take up a new stimulus bill so soon.

At the White House, Mr. Gibbs said that the first stimulus dollars are just now reaching the states and the first tax breaks are showing up in workers’ take-home pay.

“We’re just in the beginning of moving some of the money out for infrastructure projects, the money will soon be in paychecks,” he said. “Certainly, this administration doesn’t believe that there’s any reasonable way to measure the success or failure of a piece of legislation that covers stimulus spending through 2010 after a couple of weeks’ time.”

Mr. Obama himself dropped in on a gathering of about 125 state officials invited to the White House on Thursday to discuss spending projects and how to handle the massive infusion of stimulus funds.

“All of you are at the front lines of what is probably the most important task that we have in this country over the next couple of years, and that’s getting the economy started again,” Mr. Obama said.