Senate Republicans telegraphed their political strategy surrounding the stimulus Thursday, saying that if the economy continues to tank over the next several months, they'll be in position to say, in effect, 'We told you so.'
Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and nine other Republicans spoke with reporters Thursday afternoon following their House colleagues' unanimous rejection of President Obama's stimulus package Wednesday evening.
"They can cram down a stimulus package without Republican support," said Kyl, "but if that happens, then when, as we believe, in six months or so, when the American people say, 'Wait a minute, we're not better off. In fact, we're worse off than we were six months ago. Who is responsible for this and what can be done to fix it?' Republicans then are going to be in a position to say, 'We didn't have the input in this and that's why it didn't work.'"
The political telegraph sent by Kyl is the most explicit statement yet of the GOP strategy at play. Even with swift passage of the stimulus package, the rosiest economic forecasts show the economy continuing to deteriorate six months from now.
Democrats, however, intend to continue to blame Republicans for the economic crisis. Even ten years after the stock market crash of 1929, President Roosevelt was still able to pin the Depression on President Hoover and the GOP. Democrats will return to that strategy.
"Here's what I can say to my friend Jon Kyl," said Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) when told of Kyl's remark by the Huffington Post. "The mess we are in we inherited from his president. We are going to do our very best to turn this economy around. We're going to work with Republicans in a constructive way and I hope we can reach a bipartisan accord. But we have been given an unholy mess to deal with and it came from a Republican administration, which he supported."
Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, predicted that the GOP strategy would backfire. "The House Republicans have made a mistake of epic proportions that they will regret for years to come," he said. "The only question now is whether Senate Republicans are prepared to follow them off a political cliff. There are millions jobs maybe at stake, and all can think of is the failed status quo policies of the past?"