Heath Shuler First Dem to Oppose the (De)Stimulus Bill?

It was always hard to imagine that every Democrat would march in lockstep support of a massive spending bill that stands little chance of actually doing anything to help the economy. But I would not have expected that a Blue Dog like Shuler would choose inauguration day to rain on Barack Obama’s parade:

Shuler, who twice voted against the $700 billion bank rescue and the bailout of the Big Three automakers, said he could support a stimulus package only with certain assurances.

“This can’t be a Christmas tree,” Shuler said. “It can’t be the pet projects of the House and Senate.”

Shuler said the money must go toward infrastructure construction and the expansion of broadband Internet access throughout the country. The bill should focus on job creation, he added.

“We want people to work,” he said. “We need to be building bridges. We need to be laying infrastructure.”

But Shuler said the price tag of the stimulus package is high, and he is concerned about returning fiscal responsibility to Washington. He is a member of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Caucus and was recently elected whip of the group.

By Shuler’s professed criteria, it’s hard for him to vote for this package. According to the CBO today, the bill spends next to nothing on roads, bridges and other infrastructure while it can do any good for the economy:

A Congressional Budget Office analysis said most of the plan’s $355 billion in appropriations for programs such as highway construction wouldn’t be spent until after 2010. The government would spend about $26 billion of that money this year and $110 billion more next year, the report estimated. It projected the government would spend $103 billion in 2011, $53 billion in 2012 and $63 billion from 2013 to 2019…

It suggested that much of the stimulus may not come until after the economy has begun to recover. The Congressional Budget Office has said it expects a “slow” recovery to begin later this year and that the economy will expand by a “modest” 1.5 percent in 2010…

The report said the government would spend less than $5 billion of the $30 billion provided for highway construction in the next two years. The government would be able to spend less than $3 billion of the $18.5 billion provided for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs by the end of next year, the study said.

It’s almost inconceivable that an $825 billion spending bill could contain just $5 billion in highway construction in the next two years, but the Budget Office of the Democratic-run Congress confirms it. If the media pays any attention to the huge problems with this bill, Shuler will have plenty of company when he votes ‘no.’

Michelle Malkin notes the beginning of the end of Barack Obama’s honeymoon. What was that… 3 hours or so?