"Thinly-Veiled Threats"? White House Suggests Arizona Republicans Put Up or Shut Up

In a coordinated response to comments made by an Arizona Republican senator calling for a the stimulus bill to be halted, the Obama administration this week coordinated a series of letters to the governor of Arizona, with the implicit message: put up or shut up.

Arizona Republicans responded that the White House was bullying their state.

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday , Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said of the $787 billion stimulus package, "the reality is it hasn't helped yet. Only about 6.8 percent of the money has actually been spent. What I proposed is, after you complete the contracts that are already committed, the things that are in the pipeline, stop it."

A day later, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer received letters from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood , Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack , Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar all pointing out the billions headed to Arizona.

Kyl "publicly questioned whether the stimulus is working and stated that he wants to cancel projects that aren't presently underway," LaHood wrote to Brewer, a Republican. "I believe the stimulus has been very effective in creating job opportunities throughout the country. However, if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to your state, as Senator Kyl suggests, please let me know."

LaHood, a former Republican congressman, said that the $48 million in the stimulus bill for infrastructure includes $520.9 million for Arizona highway projects "creating good-paying jobs and rebuilding America for the future."

Salazar said that Arizona has $320 million in interior funds headed her way.

Donovan said that if the $73 million in HUD funds headed her way were canceled, "the following awards would not be made: $14 million in Community Development Block Grant money; $22 million in Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing; $32 million in the Tax Credit Assistance Program; and over $3 million in Project-Based Rental Assistance. Much of this funding is scheduled to be obligated in the next 10 days."

Vilsack said that the Agriculture Department "announced over $230 million in funding for Recovery Act projects in Arizona….If we cancel projects that are not currently underway, here are a few examples of Arizona projects that would not be funded: $45 million to provide approximately 500 single-family housing loans; $1.4 million to develop systems for converting wood to energy; $17.6 million in Forest Service funding benefiting Apache County; Five years of increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for Arizona."

Kyl said that “It’s unfortunate that President Obama and his administration seem unwilling to debate the merits of the stimulus bill and acknowledge its shortcomings. Instead, they have resorted to coordinated political attacks with the Democratic National Committee and the politicization of departments of government by using cabinet secretaries to issue thinly veiled threats to the governor and the people of Arizona."

Added the governor's spokesman, "the governor is hopeful that these federal Cabinet officials are not threatening to deny Arizona citizens the portion of federal stimulus funds to which they are entitled. She believes that would be a tremendous mistake by the administration. And the governor is grateful for the strong leadership and representation that Arizonans enjoy in the United States Senate."

- jpt

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