It’s not always easy being a Democratic politician from Missouri. The Republican-controlled state government there pulls no punches attacking Democrats in Washington–and by extension Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)–for reckless spending, even as Missouri itself, bruised by recession, benefits from that spending. Well, now she’s hitting back.
McCaskill has written a sharply-worded letter to two particularly critical Missouri state legislators. The letter, dated February 9, takes the lawmakers to task for blasting the stimulus while using the funds to help bridge the state’s budget gap. She writes, “I have noticed that you and many of your colleagues have been highly critical of some of the emergency spending that has gone on since the financial meltdown in September 2008.”
[A]s I consider your suggestions, especially regarding the stimulus program, I need additional information.
You are about to use almost a billion dollars in stimulus dollars in your current budgeting process. Please advise me as soon as possible what cuts you would recommend to your committees and the rest of the legislature to make up for these funds if we decided to rescind the unspent stimulus funds.
McCaskill also asks the legislators–State Sen. Rob Mayer, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, and State Rep. Allen Icet, who chairs the Budget Committee–what they did with the $1.5 billion in stimulus funds they will have spent by July.
“How was that money allocated?” McCaskill asks. “Did it go to education, economic development, corrections or other needs of the state?”
“If you want us to rescind the remaining money which you will spend this year and next, please let me know how Missourians will be hurt, so I can make an informed decision,” she notes.
Icet has been particularly vocal. In the wake of the stimulus, he’s sponsored a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to balance the federal budget. Today, he tells TPMDC he will respond to McCaskill’s letter shortly, but says that the federal government should spare him the lectures since Missouri has a balanced budget mandate.
“I find it interesting Sen. McCaskill is criticizing the state for trying to have it both ways,” Icet said. “The federal government has not solved the states’ problems, the states have to solve their own problems.” Icet, ironically, is running for McCaskill’s last job, state auditor.
He said President Obama is busting the budget and is to blame for the swelling deficit. “You just can’t spend like that and nothing bad happens,” he said. Icet was recently called out on the floor for the suspicious timing of his resolution. Silent during the years when President Bush created record deficits, Icet says now’s the time for Washington to clamp down on spending–even though, as Democrats in his own state have pointed out to him, the stimulus bill was needed to pull the country out of a Bush-triggered recession.
Additional reporting by Christina Bellantoni