During a recent stop in Blair County, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, said he's pleased that President Barack Obama has taken the advice of U.S. military leaders and extended his timetable for troop withdrawal in Iraq.
"It's the responsible thing to do," Shuster said, pointing out that Obama's 19-month timetable falls in line with Bush's pledge to Iraq's government to have troops out by the end of 2011.
Shuster had been concerned about Obama's campaign pledge to remove troops in 16 months and was "pleased, but not surprised," that he didn't keep that promise.
"Obama's backtracking has given me some heartburn," Shuster said.
Shuster said while the situation in Iraq has improved, the world remains a dangerous place, and he believes Obama understands America's armed forces still have work to do.
"Iraq is moving in the right direction," Shuster said. "They'll need our help getting there."
As for the president's stimulus plans, Shuster believes the $787 billion package "is not focused enough," and he has doubts it will work.
"There are 32 new government programs," Shuster said, adding that government programs are too often ineffective, and he worries they won't be quick enough to help.
Instead of the $15,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers originally proposed in the Senate's version, the final stimulus package only allows for up to $8,000, Shuster pointed out.
He said the plan contains a "watered down" tax break for car buyers.
Instead of getting to deduct interest payments on their tax returns, the stimulus allows the deduction of state and excise taxes.
Shuster also was critical of the scope of the stimulus package's infrastructure projects. He said America needs sewage and water system upgrades, roads, bridges and other essential improvements, but only 10 percent of the stimulus plan is going toward infrastructure.
"It's not focused," Shuster said.
As for what Republicans can do in the face of the spending and tax hikes that have come with the new administration and a Democratic-controlled Congress, Shuster believes one key will be the so-called "Blue Dog Democrats," a coalition of 47 moderate and conservative House members.
Shuster said while getting Blue Dog Democrats on board with fiscally responsible Republican initiatives would help close the vote gap in the House, ultimately it's the voters who will see the wasteful spending of the stimulus and change the majority.
"Republicans have to go out and talk to the American people," Shuster said. "Only with the American people behind us will we be able to get a majority in Congress."
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7446.