- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Heading into the second anniversary of President Obama’s stimulus bill, House Republicans are taking their first real swing at its spending, with proposals that they say would ultimately strip tens of billions of dollars from the $814 billion package.

The House Republicans’ 2011 spending proposal would rescind unobligated stimulus funds and bar federal agencies from using the money to pay for signs that advertise projects funded by stimulus dollars. A separate bill being pushed by a Republican lawmaker would return the unobligated stimulus funds to the Treasury to help reduce the deficit.

Taken together, Republicans and their supporters claim the efforts could save upward of $50 billion.

“Much of the ‘stimulus’ funding was clearly ineffective and excessive, and had little if any positive impact on job creation,” said Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and recently released the GOP’s plan to cut $61 billion in current spending before the end of the year.

The multipronged assault is the first — and perhaps last — chance for the new Republican majority and supporters to stop the law’s spending, which they say has wasted taxpayer dollars on the administration’s misguided belief that a federal cash infusion would bring the country out of the economic doldrums and improve the nation’s higher-than-normal jobless rate.

**FILE** President Obama signs the $787 billion economic stimulus bill in Denver in February 2009 as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. looks on. (Associated Press)
**FILE** President Obama signs the $787 billion economic stimulus bill in Denver ... more >

“In some sense, there is a ticking time bomb here where we are trying to get at the funds before they do go out the door,” said Mattie Corrao, government affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform.

A spokesperson with the Vice President’s Office, which oversees stimulus spending, suggested the Republicans’ estimates were too high and that only $7 billion of the funds have not been spoken for.

Mr. Obama signed the stimulus spending bill into law on Feb. 17, 2009, shortly after entering office and after his economic advisers made the case that the package would boost the economy and keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent.

But since then, the economy has struggled to regain solid footing, while the unemployment rate reached 10 percent before settling at around 9 percent in recent weeks, cementing the Republicans’ belief that any leftover money should be returned.

In the November election, the effort to return the funds gained more momentum when several Republicans won seats after railing against the stimulus spending.

Thursday’s two-year anniversary of the stimulus package will come days after Mr. Obama sent Congress a $3.7 trillion budget for 2012 that combines some spending cuts with what the president called “investments” and his priorities.

Now, the fight over the package’s unobligated funds has become part of another fight on Capitol Hill where the new Congress faces a March 4 deadline for passing a new spending bill to keep the federal government running.

“Two year ago, this Congress voted to spend nearly a trillion dollars in stimulus money, they said we could borrow and spend our way to prosperity,” said Rep. Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin Republican who is sponsoring the measure to return stimulus money to the Treasury. “Well, two years later, we are well aware that borrowing and spending doesn’t lead to economic prosperity, growth or sustainable jobs. We know that comes in the private sector.”

Mr. Duffy’s comments came after he joined a coalition of lawmakers and conservative groups for a rally at the Capitol on Monday to call on Congress to support his rescind bill.

“President Obama’s ‘stimulus’ plan has been widely discredited by every measure, and countless dollars have been wasted,” said Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, the group that organized the event. “There is still time to return some of those funds to the American taxpayer.”