Rep. Steve Chabot has made national news for taking the unique stance of a congressman fighting to keep federal funds from his own city. Chabot's foray into the Cincinnati streetcar fight is more than a battle between a budget-hawk politician and what he considers to be profligate spending.

After all, he is for spending federal money on other area transportation projects, namely the repairing of the Brent Spence Bridge.

With a monumental election in November, including Chabot's defense of his seat in the 1st congressional district, politics and principles are joining at the hip. The enduring streetcar conflict contains the same DNA as the national political battle in November. And the Democratically led streetcar initiative has been public enemy No. 1 of Chabot and conservatives for a long time.

"If the city wants to move forward, that's their decision," Chabot says. "But as far as getting additional money from a federal government that's broke, we can't afford it. All we'd be doing is handing the debt problem over to our children and grandchildren.

"People sent me to Washington to protect their wallets, and that's what I'm going to do."

The state of Ohio already has withdrawn its $52 million in support for the streetcar. And now Chabot, R-Cincinnati, is weighing in: No more pork for public transit dreams. His amendment to the House transportation bill says: "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to design, construct, or operate a fixed guideway project located in Cincinnati, Ohio."

The city already got $50 million from the federal government. Chabot admits he can't stop construction, but he hopes to block $800,000 in federal funding to extend the tracks.

The streetcar crowd calls Chabot an enemy of progress. They warn that his amendment could block other transit projects "” the same strategy they used to defeat anti-streetcar initiatives at the polls.

Chabot insists it is carefully crafted and won't block other projects.

He says federal transportation aid should be used instead to replace the obsolete Brent Spence Bridge or for a new I-71 interchange at Martin Luther King Boulevard. "If they're spending, let's at least fix the streets," Chabot says.

Chabot says most of the reaction he's heard has been very positive. "Maybe it's just polite Cincinnati, but the people I see say, 'Thank you.' "

His local aide, Katie Streicher, says: "We had lots of support, but there are lots of people who are invested in the streetcars, and we heard from them, too. It's a big issue in Cincinnati."

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and streetcar supporters point out that Cincinnati voters have endorsed their $120 million project twice.

As John Schneider, chairman of the Alliance for Regional Transit, points out, Cincinnati has had that debate and the streetcar survived. "I don't know of any transportation project that has had as much scrutiny," he says.

Schneider says people need to look at how streetcars will add wealth and vitality. "There have been three studies and all show the benefits far exceed the costs," he says. His favorite benefit is populating the city. "We have a city built for 500,000 and 300,000 people live in it. The hottest real estate now is walkable urban neighborhoods. We need to capitalize on that." Streetcars in Tacoma, Seattle and Portland, Ore., have been population magnets, he says.

The counter argument, however, is that benefits can be wiped out by cost overruns, sparse riders and perpetual taxes for operating costs.

But in the bigger picture, this is a fresh deal from a new deck in the showdown between Democrats and Republicans. And Chabot's debt card could be trump.

High-speed rail and transit are staples of President Obama's stimulus-spending "green" crusade for "shovel-ready jobs." One of the biggest, a $68 billion bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is Exhibit A on the politics of transportation. Polls show California voters now regret the bullet train they approved at half the price.

Republicans say many high-speed rail and transit efforts amount to more reckless spending that has added a third to the national debt in just three years. Cincinnati is $34 million in debt with unaffordable pension obligations, tax increases on tap and layoffs and cuts in services possible.

Next, the transportation bill goes to the Senate and finally the President.

How they act very well could help dictate how Cincinnati voters act in November.