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GOP, Ritter trade barbs: 'junket' vs. 'nonsense'

Published February 7, 2009 at 12:05 a.m.

Senate Republicans blasted Gov. Bill Ritter on Friday, accusing him of going on a junket to support a bloated stimulus package.

Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dreyer, blasted right back, calling the criticism "nothing more than political posturing."

The governor's trip to the East Coast lasted less than 24 hours.

"We don't have time for this nonsense," Dreyer said. "In case they hadn't noticed, the country's in a recession."

Ritter was one of four Democratic governors invited to a Democratic Congressional retreat in Williamsburg, Va.

Dreyer said Ritter left for the retreat Thursday night and was scheduled to fly back Friday afternoon.

"I hope you will reconsider your decision to support the so-called stimulus package and, more importantly, your decision to attend - and thus endorse - this junket," Senate Republicans wrote in a letter initiated by Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch.

"It's bad enough that you plan to lobby for passage of this stimulus package, whose price tag has now grown to more than $1 trillion . . . But for you to join congressional Democrats on this taxpayer funded vacation at a time when millions of Americans are losing their jobs sends an even more destructive message to the people of our state," Republicans wrote.

The trip was paid for by the House Democratic Caucus, which receives taxpayer money.

"This is not some three-day junket," Dreyer said. "The governor was invited by the speaker of the House and House leadership. He's the only governor west of the Mississippi to be invited."

The other governors attending are David Paterson, of New York; Ted Strickland, of Ohio; and Beverly Perdue, of North Carolina.

President Barack Obama singled out Ritter when he addressed attendees Thursday night.

The plan "will help Governor Ritter and Governor Strickland not have to lay off firefighters and teachers and police," Obama said. "Because when they get laid off, not only do we lose services, but maybe they can't make payments on their home. Maybe they get foreclosed on and the economy goes down further."

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