During Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden attacked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for criticizing the president’s stimulus act despite having sent two separate requests for stimulus funds for his district.
Biden was wrong. Ryan sent at least four requests.
A Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence between Ryan’s office and the Environmental Protection Agency, filed by The Huffington Post, unearthed two additional instances in which the Wisconsin Republican petitioned for American Recovery Act funds. In addition, there were many other occasions in which the GOP vice presidential nominee asked the EPA for grant money for projects in Wisconsin’s 1st District, which encompasses Ryan’s hometown of Janesville and has a slight Democratic lean. Combined, the letters muddy Ryan’s claim that the stimulus wasn’t helpful and that government spending, more broadly, doesn’t assist small businesses.
The letters, Ryan’s spokesman Brendan Buck said, were sent as part of the congressman’s basic responsibility to advocate on behalf of his district. “Part of being a congressman is vouching for constituents and helping them navigate the federal bureaucracy when asked,” he said.
But the letters’ language reveals a congressman who was involved in reviewing the applications and determining that taxpayer money could be useful economically. Moreover, the direct petitioning of the EPA could prove awkward for the Republican ticket, owing to the insistence among many in the GOP that the agency is a hindrance and should be eliminated.
Many of these correspondences were in line with what virtually every lawmaker does in carrying out his or her constituent duties. But as Biden charged in Thursday night’s debate, for Ryan — who has taken a hard line against both the stimulus and government spending in general — the requests have opened him up to charges of hypocrisy and insincerity.
“I love that,” Biden said. “This was such a bad program, and he writes me a letter saying, writes the Department of Energy a letter saying, `The reason we need this stimulus, it will create growth and jobs.’ His words. And now he’s sitting here looking at me.”
Your family (parents, siblings and kids) decides to take a vacation together. The choices are a trip to Disneyland or a cruise. The cost is the same either way. You vote for the cruise. Disneyland wins.
Do you still go on the vacation?
There is nothing hypocritical about a congressman opposing a spending bill and then seeking some of the money for his/her district when the bill passes anyway. Imagine if only those congressmen who voted in favor of spending were allowed to claim some for their constituents!
And if you’re writing a request for money, do you say “We don’t need it and we’re just gonna waste it but we want it anyway?” Hell no, you write about how much you need it and how much it will help.
BTW – It is not unusual for staff members to prepare correspondence for their boss to read and sign. Some bosses trust their staff and just sign routine items that are presented to them. Some bosses are so good they sign stuff without ever making it to the office that day.