OBAMA PRESSES LAWMAKERS ON STATE AID…. There’s been some grumbling on the Hill that key spending measures would be more likely to pass if President Obama was more direct in making appeals for the funds. So, late yesterday, the president wrote congressional leaders a letter.

President Obama urged reluctant lawmakers Saturday to quickly approve nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments, saying the money is needed to avoid “massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters” and to support the still-fragile economic recovery.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Obama defended last year’s huge economic stimulus package, saying it helped break the economy’s free fall, but argued that more spending is urgent and unavoidable. “We must take these emergency measures,” he wrote in an appeal aimed primarily at members of his own party.

The letter comes as rising concern about the national debt is undermining congressional support for additional spending to bolster the economy. Many economists say more spending could help bring down persistently high unemployment, but with Republicans making an issue of the record deficits run up during the recession, many Democratic lawmakers are eager to turn off the stimulus tap.

“I think there is spending fatigue,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said recently. “It’s tough in both houses to get votes.”

I’m still struggling to understand this mindset. Imagine there’s a raging fire, and the fire department has gotten much of it under control, but not all of it. It wouldn’t exactly be persuasive if the fire fighters decided to scale back, citing hose fatigue, as critics demanded that they stop trying to throw water at the problem.

The Washington Post‘s report said congressional Democrats, especially in the House, “are increasingly reluctant to take politically unpopular positions.”

That’s not unreasonable, but here’s the question for them: do incumbent lawmakers, worried about re-election, believe voters will be pleased with “massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters”?

I don’t mean for that to sound snarky; I mean it quite literally. If Dems pass the spending measures the president is pushing, they’ll be saving thousands of jobs and prevent broader economic hardship during a fragile recovery. These lawmakers can go back to their home districts and arrange nice photo-ops in front of schools with teachers who would have been laid off, and police stations with officers who would be out of a job were it not for their “aye” vote in Congress for more spending.

In what universe do Democrats think they’ll be better off politically with “massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters”?

“It is essential that we continue to explore additional measures to spur job creation and build momentum toward recovery, even as we establish a path to long-term fiscal discipline,” Obama wrote in his letter. “At this critical moment, we cannot afford to slide backwards just as our recovery is taking hold.”

I can appreciate lawmakers’ anxiety, but this should be a no-brainer.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.