WASHINGTON — After meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, it was clear that the nation's Republican governors are divided over the $787 billion stimulus package signed into law last week.
On Sunday and again Monday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's in Washington for the National Governors Association winter meetings, went out of his way to praise the stimulus. Also Monday, Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist embraced Obama's economic plan.
Schwarzenegger called it "a terrific package" and said it would pump $80 billion into California's economy. That includes $35 billion in tax cuts and $45 billion that will go to transportation, education, health care and other areas, he said.
Speaking to reporters late Monday, Schwarzenegger said Republicans and Democrats alike in Washington should now be focusing on people, not politics.
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"There's always time next year to talk about politics," Schwarzenegger said, adding that "there is no room" for political feuding with the nation facing a severe economic crisis.
Schwarzenegger and Crist are at odds with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Sanford called the package a huge mistake and warned that the nation will hit a tipping point by stacking up trillions and trillions in debt.
In an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Schwarzenegger took a shot at Sanford.
"Well, Governor Sanford says that he does not want to take the money, the federal stimulus package money. And I want to say to him: I'll take it," Schwarzenegger said. "I'm more than happy to take his money or any other governor in this country that doesn't want to take this money, I take it, because we in California can need it."
After leaving the meeting at the White House Monday, Sanford shot back.
"It's a difference of opinion that makes the world go round," Sanford told reporters.
Reacting specifically to Schwarzenegger's remarks, Sanford said: "I don't begrudge him. Everybody's got their different take in the world of politics. I think the easiest of all things is to grab money that's there on the table. I think the more delicate question is how do we pay for all that money that's put on the table."
Florida's Gov. Crist, who also raised the ire of fellow Republicans for enthusiastically backing the stimulus package, said outside the White House that he's anxious for the bill to work.
"I want my president to succeed," Crist told reporters. "As I've said before, I didn't campaign for President Obama, but he is my president now. And he's president of our country and I want him to succeed, I want him to do well because I love my country."
Crist said he agrees with Obama that the portion of the stimulus bill GOP'ers object to is a "fraction" of the overall bill. Some GOP governors say they are likely to reject the aid to extend unemployment benefits.
"The guy's right," Crist said of Obama. "I mean you've got to stay focused on the big picture. Everybody has a right to have their opinion, I mean God bless them for that. But we are in an economic crisis. We need to come together as a country and focus on the big picture.
"Any time a bill goes through Congress, it's not going to be a perfect product," Crist said. "You can argue over nuances and that's fine to do but the big picture is to try to get our country moving and try to get our country moving quickly and we need to rally around that effort."
Crist said he too would welcome any dollars from states that don't take their entire share.
"We can use it, Florida's a mega-state,'' he said. "We can always use more roads and more rail.''
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