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Minnesota Republicans blast stimulus bill

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Rep. John Kline, Michele Bachmann and Eric Paulsen
Republicans John Kline, Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen plan to cast no votes on the new spending in the $789 billion economic stimulus package.
MPR file photos

The members of Congress who represent Minnesotans are spilt largely along party lines on the tax cuts and new spending in the $789 billion economic stimulus package. 

Republicans John Kline, Michele Bachmann and  Erik Paulsen plan to cast no votes. 

"We hear about fantasy football games. This is fantasy economics," Bachmann said. 

Bachmann, who represents the 6th District, said the plan spends far too much money, and she  predicted future political problems for the Democrats who have been promoting passage of the stimulus.

"This is an enormous amount of money, and it's hard for me to look 20 to 25-year-olds in the eye and in good conscience say that this bill will be good to them," she said. "Because this will link them to certain high tax increases and punishing high tax rates for them on into the future."

Bachmann said the stimulus package is Democratic legislation that was not crafted with input from Republicans.

Rep. John Kline agrees. Like Bachmann, the 2nd District Republican said more could have been accomplished for a lot less money by targeting more tax cuts to small businesses and individuals. 

"What we have is a stimulus bill which really doesn't provide the stimulus we need but provides an enormous amount of spending and government growth and debt which, frankly, you and I are not going to  pay off," Kline said. "It's going to be our kids and grandkids."

The newest  member of the Minnesota delegation, 3rd District Rep. Erik Paulsen, said he's not worried that voting against the plan will cost him support back in Minnesota.

"I am hearing overwhelmingly from my constituents that this is not the right plan," he said.

"I am hearing overwhelmingly from my constituents that this is not the right plan."

Like Bachmann and Kline, Paulsen said the plan costs too much. 

"I really do believe it is critical for Congress to pass a stimulus package," he said.  "Unfortunately this plan has become much more of a spending plan rather than a stimulus plan."

1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz said the bill is not perfect but is needed.  Walz said he's lost patience with Republican criticism.

"I guess I'm a little frustrated," he said. "I see my colleagues trying to zero in on one tenth of 1 percent that they happen to not agree with  and miss the fact that as we dawdle people are losing their livelihoods," he said.

Walz said tax cuts, along with research money in the bill,  will help the people of his district.  And Walz says it's critical  that Congress passes the plan.

"What we're doing is addressing an economy that is as difficult as any that most of us have seen in our lifetime," he said.  The numbers are staggering. The outlook is pretty bleak in the short-run. This piece of legislation is meant to be the life preserver to put us in the right direction." 

Minnesota's only Senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar said she's voting for the plan.  Klobuchar said most of the people she's hearing from want something done. But she acknowleged the political risk of spending so much money. 

"I know that there are some people that would rather not deal with this," she said.  "I don't believe that we can anymore."

As for the Republican criticism that the package is more of a spending program than a stimulus, Klobuchar says the arguments are nothing new.

She says what is new, is the approach the stimulus plan takes. Klobuchar says it will help the country in the short and long-term. 

"It seems to me that they're stuck in the past, and all we know is that the policies of the Bush administration that got us into this mess, I don't think  anyone in this country wants those to be continued," she said. "What we're talking about here is a new way of moving our country forward and it's  by creating jobs in areas that we need them."

President Obama had hoped to have more Republican support for the stimulus.  Political observers  say that would have given the Democrats political cover if the hundreds of billions of dollars of spending and tax cuts fail to turn the economy around.