- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009

As senators prepare to vote Monday on an $827 billion stimulus plan, Democrats turned arguments against the former majority party, chastising Republicans on Sunday’s talk shows for presiding over six years of “bloated spending.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, responded to charges of overspending from Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, by reminding him of the Republican record during the Bush administration.

“On the bloated spending, this comes from a man whose party controlled the federal government - House, Senate and White House - for six years,” Mr. Frank said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “The spending that we have now was set by six years of Republican spending.”

Mr. Ensign, who had called Mr. Frank’s assertions that teachers and firefighters would have be laid off “fearmongering,” said he agreed that his party should have been more fiscally conservative while in power.

“Well, if you agree, I guess I would’ve been more impressed if you’d done something about it, not just agree,” Mr. Frank said during the testy exchange. “You were in power for six years.”

Lawrence H. Summers, National Economic Council director, hit on the same theme. He accused Republicans of overseeing massive increases in government spending over the past eight years and now conveniently turning into fiscal conservatives.

“Those who presided over the last eight years, the eight years that brought us to the point where we inherit trillions of dollars of deficit, an economy that´s collapsing more rapidly than at any time in the last 50 years, don´t seem to me in a strong position to lecture about the lessons of history,” Mr. Summers said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Republicans were not deterred and continued Sunday to attack the stimulus plan as wasteful spending that will not help the nation’s troubled economy, although they appear unlikely to stop the plan from making its way to President Obama’s desk.

“The worn-out idea that the American people are tired of is runaway spending,” Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the House Republican Conference chairman, said on “Meet the Press.” “That’s why support for the stimulus is collapsing by the hour.”

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have dug in their heels over the past week in preparation for the Senate vote. A deal reached Friday night is likely to secure Senate passage of the bill, before House and Senate negotiators reconcile differences in the two versions.

The Senate bill includes more tax breaks and direct financial assistance than the House plan, which includes more government spending and direct aid to the states. The House version passed with no Republican votes; the Senate version has the public support of three Republicans but is not expected to get many more.

Mr. Obama has asked for a stimulus package on his desk by Feb. 16. Preliminary deadlines for passage have been pushed back - including the pending Senate vote on the stimulus package that was expected to happen last week.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers also scrapped on Sunday’s political shows about how the second half of the financial bailout should be spent. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to announce Tuesday the Obama administration’s spending plan for the remaining $350 billion in the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

“The focus is going to be on increasing the flow of credit and doing it with transparency and doing it with accountability for those who receive support,” Mr. Summers said.

Democratic senators prepared their lines of defense for the second round of TARP funds, which likely will include money to buy bad mortgages and insure banks.

“And we’ve got to characterize this not as saving the banks, but saving the economy in terms of the credit that flows in this country,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said on “Meet the Press.”

Senate Republicans have said the stimulus bill should be the vehicle to address the national housing crisis.

“The housing crisis is what has drug the rest of the economy down,” Mr. Ensign said. “That’s why the stimulus bill should have been focused, to a great deal, on fixing the housing problem. Because if you don’t fix that underlying cancer, if you don’t treat that … the rest of the economy can’t recover.”

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