Ohio stands to receive $8.2 billion from the stimulus package passed by Congress — with no Republican backing in the House of Representatives and only three Republican votes in the Senate. Not one of the GOP members of Congress from Ohio — eight representatives and a senator — voted for the bill.
Indeed, Republicans are reveling in the fact that it was Ohio Congressman John Boehner of West Chester (near Cincinnati), the minority leader of the House, who orchestrated the slam dunk of Democratic President Barack Obama. House Republicans cheered when the vote was announced — a churlish in-your-face to the president who has been in office since Jan. 20.
Obama, in the mistaken belief that bipartisanship is a realistic endeavor in Washington, invited key Republicans to the White House just before the vote. He wanted to demonstrate his willingness to reach out to the opposition. There are reports that even though Boehner and other GOPers went to the White House as the president’s guests, they had already made up their minds to oppose the stimulus package developed by the Democratic majority.
The Republicans couldn’t help gloating after the vote in the House and immediately signaled that they intended to use the passage by Democrats in next year’s midterm election.
In the Senate, Ohio Republican George V. Voinovich voted no; Democrat Sherrod Brown was vocal in his support of the package.
Given that the GOP intends to make political hay with the stimulus, how should the Democrats respond?
Let there be no misunderstanding of what strong Democratic regions like the Mahoning Valley expect Gov. Strickland to do: Force the Republicans to publicly beg for a share of the stimulus money.
If the governor allocates any of the dollars to the eight Republican congressional districts before the Mahoning Valley gets its funding, he had better slip in under the cloak of darkness should he visit. Don’t forget this is his home. When he ran in 2006, he was a resident of Lisbon. And when, as the 6th District congressman, he won the governor’s race, he publicly acknowledged that his being a Mahoning Valley resident gave him a decided edge.
Now, Strickland has the chance to not only say thank-you to the people of this region, but to strike a blow for partisan politics.
When it was announced that the governor intended to hire someone to decide how the stimulus money should be spent, Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly said they wanted to be heard.
The only way Strickland and the Democratic controlled House should give the Republicans in the Legislature a say is if they publicly repudiate the their members of Congress for voting against the bill. (The GOP controls the state Senate.)
The governor should also demand that all eight congressmen and women, led by Boehner, make a pilgrimage to his office to beg for funding for their districts.
This begging — on your knees, you swine! — should be done in the presence of reporters.
Strickland should be aware that in next year’s gubernatorial election, the Republicans intend to blame him for Ohio’s economic crisis. And, they will blame President Obama for the national economic collapse.
The reality is that it will take more than a year for the national and state economies to recover. When voters lose their jobs and find their lives in disarray, they strike out at those in office.
Given the way the Republicans mistreated the president, Strickland must know that next year’s election will be as hard-hitting as ever. The GOP is intent on winning the governor’s office and the secretary of state’s position so that the party can control the drawing of congressional district boundaries.
As a result of the population loss, the state will lose one district, if not two, which means that boundaries will determine how many Republicans and Democrats are in the delegation.
Gov. Strickland must play hardball with the GOP — starting with the allocation of stimulus dollars.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which means that Congressman Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville, D-6th, and the other Democrats have a right to expect more than the Republicans — and to get theirs first.