Politics

Republicans Call For Defunding Half-Finished Stimulus Projects They Once Supported And Took Credit For

Nearly every Republican voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus. But the majority of the GOP caucus later took credit for dozens of successful local stimulus jobs and projects. ThinkProgress documented example after example of Republicans railing against the “failedstimulus, while telling local reporters that they deserve praise for bringing stimulus-funded projects home. This hypocrisy continued for months, and for the most part, many Republicans were able to escape traditional media scrutiny for their two-faced approach to the stimulus.

Now, Republican leaders are coalescing around a proposal to “cancel unused spending authority in the 2009 stimulus bill” that could block funds from flowing to ongoing stimulus projects. However, Republicans have failed to fully explain the repercussions for such a radical budget proposal.

As the OMB director Jerry Zients noted, most of the unspent stimulus money the Republicans have targeted is already obligated to specific projects. By cutting off stimulus funds to current projects, Republicans could leave projects half-finished and force mass layoffs at stimulus-funded sites. This wasteful idea is even more cynical given the fact that Republicans have taken credit for major stimulus projects that are still ongoing and could be affected by their new anti-stimulus budget:

HALF-FINISHED PROJECT IN MISSOURI: $44.5 million in stimulus funds was committed to an expansion of Highway 141 in St. Louis County. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), who claimed the stimulus failed and is part of the Republican caucus calling for an end to already-committed stimulus funds, attended the ground breaking ceremony for the project (watch a video of his remarks here). The project will not be completed until summer of 2012. The picture to the right was taken in January, and shows ongoing construction on Highway 141 that will be frozen if Akin’s budget proposal is successful.

HALF-FINISHED PROJECT IN SOUTH CAROLINA: The stimulus provided $1.6 billion for decommissioning a Cold War-era Heavy Water Components Test Reactor at the Savannah River Site. The project, which has created over 3,356 direct jobs, was primarily championed by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC). However, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another vocal opponent of the stimulus, said he helped Clyburn obtain the project because it will “set the stage for the state to benefit from nuclear jobs in the future.” A revealing story by Yvonne Wenger of the Post and Courier newspaper details the vast economic benefits of the effort, and how the program is helping local workers care for their families in an economically-depressed region of the country. Representatives for the firm handling the Savannah River Site project told ThinkProgress that the project is still reliant on stimulus funds and that it is still ongoing. The picture above was taken in January and shows recent construction efforts.

HALF-FINISHED PROJECT IN IOWA: The stimulus provided $25 million in funds for a project to replace the vertical lift bridge in Burlington near the Illinois border. Authorities had long complained about safety hazards regarding the 119-year-old swing-span bridge, and were eager for the 100 jobs the project was expected to create. According to the railway company BNSF, stimulus-opponent Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joined area Democrats in supporting the project. Last month, BNSF posted a video of the bridge construction project, which will not be completed until later this year.

Republicans are claiming they can find $45 billion in unspent stimulus funds. However, the OMB has shown that every dollar except for about $7 billion is already committed to projects in the states. Therefore, for Republicans to make good on the promise to cut $45 billion in unspent funds, they will have to gouge projects, like the ones above, that have already started.