It was an offer, not a threat

IT WAS AN OFFER, NOT A THREAT…. It seemed jarring given the dire economic circumstances, but Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, the #2 Republican in the Senate, argued over the weekend that he’d like to see all stimulus efforts end. The government should, Kyl said, wrap up the pending contracts and then stop recovery investment altogether.

Of course, if the government pursued Kyl’s recommended course, that would mean a whole lot less job-creating investment in his home state of Arizona. On Monday, several Obama administration officials wondered whether Kyl’s colleagues in the Grand Canyon State agree with his approach to the economy.

On Monday, four Obama Cabinet secretaries sent letters to Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer asking if she, too, wanted to shut off the spigot of federal stimulus cash.

“I believe the stimulus has been very effective in creating job opportunities throughout the country,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote to Brewer. “However, if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to the state, as Senator Kyl suggests, please let me know.”

To be sure, for a cabinet secretary to ask a cheeky question like this to a senator and a governor was a little bold, but I suspect some administration officials are annoyed by Republican leaders’ public calls for an end to stimulus efforts.

What was interesting, though, were the responses. McCain said he “strongly support[s] the comments of Senator Kyl.” Brewer’s spokesperson suggested LaHood may have been “threatening” Arizona, and expressed her gratitude for Kyl’s “leadership.”

It seems like this could use some additional follow-up. On the one hand, we have Kyl arguing that recovery funds should be eliminated entirely. On the other hand, we have Kyl’s Arizona colleagues saying they want the recovery funds and support Kyl for saying there shouldn’t be any more recovery funds.

In fact, Nate Carlile noted that Arizona’s governor, facing a massive budget shortfall, has “already tapped into billions of dollars made available by the stimulus package — and rejected efforts by the Arizona GOP to slash funding for education and health care.”

It seems like a straightforward proposition: either Arizona wants the stimulus or it doesn’t. Either Kyl is right, and recovery efforts should stop immediately, or Kyl is wrong, and recovery efforts (in Arizona and elsewhere) should continue.

Any chance we can get some “straight talk” on this?