Sharp Reaction to G.O.P. Plan on Gas Rebate

WASHINGTON, April 30 — The Senate Republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to ease the burden of high gasoline prices is eliciting more scorn than gratitude from the very people it was intended to help.

As Gas Prices Go Up, Impact Trickles Down (April 30, 2006) Aides for several Republican senators reported a surge of calls and e-mail messages from constituents ridiculing the rebate as a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in November.

"The conservatives think it is socialist bunk, and the liberals think it is conservative trickery," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, pointing out that the criticism was coming from across the ideological spectrum.

Angry constituents have asked, "Do you think we are prostitutes? Do you think you can buy us?" said another Republican senator's aide, who was granted anonymity to openly discuss the feedback because the senator had supported the plan.

Conservative talk radio hosts have been particularly vocal. "What kind of insult is this?" Rush Limbaugh asked on his radio program on Friday. "Instead of buying us off and treating us like we're a bunch of whores, just solve the problem." In commentary on Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume called the idea "silly."

The reaction comes as the rising price of gasoline has put the public in a volatile mood and as polls show that cynicism about Congress is at its highest level since 1994.

Still, Eric Ueland, chief of staff to Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, whose office played a main role in pulling the proposal together, said the rebate was an important short-term step in a broader array of measures that began with last year's energy bill. Constituents "believe government ought to step up to the plate rather than loll around in the dugout," Mr. Ueland wrote in an e-mail message on Sunday.
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