January 30, 2009
By Matthew Bigg
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Republicans in Congress may be playing a high-risk game by flexing their muscles and snubbing a popular new U.S. president who very publicly sought their support.
They denied President Barack Obama, a Democrat, even one vote for a more-than-$800-billion economic stimulus plan in the House of Representatives, urging him to cut both government spending and people's taxes.
The plan passed the House Wednesday and another bill will likely pass the Senate next week before lawmakers hammer out a joint bill likely to clear both Democratic-controlled houses by mid-February.
Hewing a tough conservative line may please Republican supporters outside Washington for the moment but the strategy could backfire in the long term if perceived as an obstacle to economic recovery. . .
Political science professor Cal Jillson said the party was in a state of "ideological confusion".
"There is a debate about whether their future is in returning to the principles of small government, low taxes and military strength ... or to try to reconfigure the party for the coming decades... (as) a more moderate party," said Jillson of Southern Methodist University in Texas.
As evidence, he cited the range of opinions among Republican governors over the economic stimulus plans.
Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, leads a group deeply suspicious of the package.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says his state could use the improvements an economic recovery plan might offer for education, environment, health, infrastructure and jobs.
Even if Republicans reposition themselves as a party of low taxes that opposes increased government spending, a larger question emerges: is the ideology an election winner?
Jillson said he had his doubts.
"This (low taxes) is a signature Republican position but they have ridden it to defeat in 2006 and 2008," he said.
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