03/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Whiplash: Conservatives Play Politics with Stimulus Spending

During the debate on the President's economic stimulus proposal, conservatives argued passionately about how tax cuts had far more economic impact and created far more jobs than government spending. When that was defeated they reversed field by doubling the proposed spending in the bill for highways and more than quintupling funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, programs they had eliminated in the previous substitute. Even more remarkably, the vast majority of the 170 members who voted for the first substitute also voted for the second.

The convoluted and conflicting messages that conservatives presented in debate over the stimulus package conveyed more than just confusion on their part. What they demonstrated was that they will adapt to whatever philosophy they find most tactically useful in blocking their political opponent -- the new president. It is doubtful that either history or the American people will judge those efforts kindly.

Analysis of the two conservative substitutes can be found in recent column entitled Whiplash.

Scott Lilly is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.