Stimulus Controversy, Prime Time Response to Obama Put Jindal in Spotlight
On Tuesday, the 37-year-old Jindal – pegged by many pundits as the future of the Republican Party – will make his most significant address to a national audience when he delivers the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s first message to a joint session of Congress.
Beyond political speculation on 2012, Jindal has made news in recent days by saying no thanks to $32.8 million in federal funds to increase unemployment insurance payments in Louisiana. The money was part of the $787-billion economic stimulus bill approved by Congress.
Obama spoke to a gathering of the National Governor’s Association at the White House on Monday. And Jindal, who has been compared to Obama in terms of being a rising star in his party, had praise for the president.
“I think every American is incredibly proud of the president’s personal story,” Jindal told reporters. “The fact that we will be seeing him addressing his first joint session of Congress tomorrow night – I am honored to be giving the Republican response – we are certainly as Americans very proud of his accomplishments.”
But Jindal added that he and other Republicans would offer counter proposals.
“Absolutely, Republican and Democratic governors want our president to succeed,” Jindal said. “When we disagree with him, we will certainly offer alternative ideas and solutions. But, we face serious challenges as a country – economic challenges and national challenges.
“We’re going to look at every opportunity to cross the party lines and work with him. We want to see him succeed. But to answer your question, I, as an American, am going to be very proud to watch him address the Congress tomorrow,” he added.
At one point during the press conference, Jindal said, “Let me, let some of my fellow governors answer some questions.” However, more questions were subsequently directed at him. Jindal, however, did not mill around outside the White House, as other governors did after the press conference, to take further questions from reporters.
Jindal was often mentioned as a possible running-mate for Republican presidential nominee John McCain last year. Elected governor in 2007 after serving in the House of Representatives, he was the favorite of many conservatives and touted as a good vice presidential pick by leaders such as radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Jindal did not attend the 2008 Republican National Convention, where he was scheduled to speak, because a hurricane hit his state that same week. So the address Tuesday night following Obama’s speech could be the first time many Americans see him and learn about him.
Coming to the forefront among governors in opposing certain provisions of the stimulus package may also raise his profile even more on the eve of his nationally televised response to Obama.
“I will continue to say, as I’ve said before, certainly I think there could have been a very different stimulus bill written,” Jindal said at the White House on Monday. “It could have been a stimulus bill that was truly targeted and temporary: focused on infrastructure, focused on the kinds of tax credits that would have gotten investment moving in the private sector.”
He went on to criticize several questionable provisions in the bill, such as $1 billion for the U.S. Census; $300 million to buy cars for the federal government; and $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.
“There are several, several spending – several dollars included in the stimulus, that it is not apparent to me why they had to be in the stimulus package, and what they have to do with stimulating the economy,” Jindal said.
“What’s also important today is that the president talked about a couple of other things. He talked about the fact that now that the stimulus bill has been written and passed into law, it is important that we ensure those dollars are spent with as much accountability and transparency as possible,” he said.