Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 23, 2009

REPUBLICANS STILL DISLIKE STIMULUS.... Barack Obama has prioritized bipartisan support for an economic stimulus package. But as predicted, it's very difficult to pass a meaningful, effective bill that draws support from congressional Republicans. The president made concessions from the outset -- offering tax cuts to garner GOP backing -- and wouldn't you know it, Republicans aren't satisfied.

Just days after taking office vowing to end the political era of "petty grievances," President Obama ran into mounting GOP opposition yesterday to an economic stimulus plan that he had hoped would receive broad bipartisan support.

Republicans accused Democrats of abandoning the new president's pledge, ignoring his call for bipartisan comity and shutting them out of the process by writing the $850 billion legislation. [...]

Republicans have a long list of grievances. Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who gave Vice President Biden a 17-page list of spending requests, said he opposes the proposed increase in funding for Pell Grants for college students because it would do little to spur short-term economic growth. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said the plan lacks enough "fast-acting tax relief," such as a temporary halt to payroll taxes and more relief for businesses. Sen. John Thune (S.D.) said the nearly $1 trillion price tag would add too much to a federal deficit that is already predicted to top $1.2 trillion for 2009.

"The Republican concerns about what's moving in the House are growing by the day," Thune said. He dismissed as "very, very ambitious" Obama's hope of securing a bipartisan majority of 80 votes for the stimulus plan in the Senate, which could consider its version of the legislation next weekend.

Republicans believe they have not been treated as equal partners in the process, and that conservative ideas aren't being taken seriously. Newsflash: they're right. What Republicans seem to be missing here is that they shouldn't be treated as equal partners -- they're a small congressional minority whose economic ideas helped create the mess Democrats are now trying to clean up.

We're left with the same dynamic that's existed from the beginning of the process: the Obama administration can pursue a better bill that passes with 60 votes, or a weaker bill that passes with 80. The priority should obviously be the quality of the package.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

Republicans? Not Happy? Well, I'll be darned.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on January 23, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Say, wasn't the Repubs plan to "Sit on one's ass and let the economy rot before you take a 'hard earned' tax dollar from their cold dead hands"?

Why yes, yes it was.

What's the problem, Senate Repubs?

Posted by: Former Dan on January 23, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.)... said he opposes ...increase in funding for Pell Grants for college students because it would do little to spur short-term economic growth.

Short term, it puts people in college who would otherwise be collecting unemployment or welfare, or holding a job that someone else needs. Long term, it increases the number of entrepeneurs who might start innovative companies that are the core of free market capitalism. Why wouldn't a Republican understand that?

Posted by: Danp on January 23, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

If your house is on fire, you don't stop and try to change the mind of the guy who says the that smoke and flames aren't necessarily bad. And you don't try to find a "middle ground" with someone who thinks that the solution is to pour gasoline into your house.

Republicans will call "wasteful spending" any taxpayer money that doesn't benefit their millionaire patrons or their corporate masters. The question is, will President Obama and the Democratic leaders finally show the backbone to pass legislation that is comprehensive enough to do the job, or will they try to meet Republicans halfway -- again -- and end up spending just enough to not accomplish anything at all.

Posted by: SteveT on January 23, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

they're a small congressional minority whose economic ideas helped create the mess Democrats are now trying to clean up.

The minority portion really isn't terribly important and a bit dangerous to bring up. It was that same mindset that had the GOP shutting Democrats out when we had but 45 senators.

40 is not a SMALL minority. If the Dems had realized that, maybe they might have shot down more of Bush's excesses?

The important part is that the GOP's ideas aren't just bad. They've been PROVEN bad with a 6 year experiment that delivered only the second depression in our nation's history. If only one Senator has a great idea, his minority status doesn't justify ignoring her. It makes him a visionary. The same minority of one with a crummy idea makes a man a crank.

We've got Democrats in control now. Can we start governing with ideas instead of people now?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on January 23, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

The criticism of Obama as not being "bipartisan" is quite amusing coming from the Republicans. Obama makes concessions with huge tax cuts, essentially caving before negotiations have even begun (or just taking the center right and pushing Republicans further off the cliff) meanwhile Republicans stamp their feet and whine that they aren't going to concede a damn thing. Then after taking their ball and going home the cry that the other guy isn't being "bipartisan"'.

Do Republicans believe the American people don't have two brain cells to rub together? We've watched them for the last 15 plus years take a gigantic shit over centrist positions and concede nothing in terms of bipartisanship and now they want to dictate the terms of what "centrism" is.

Posted by: grinning cat on January 23, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

But, geez, didn't the RepuGs let RollmeoverintheClover Max Baucus sit in on the Big Pharma giveaway Medicare bill, two years ago? Wasn't he one who came up with the Donut Hole? And Dick threw open the doors to his energy confabbing.

Posted by: berttheclock on January 23, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

"6 year experiment"?

more like a 28 year experiment.

Posted by: grinning cat on January 23, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

The priority should obviously be the quality of the package.

Hell, yes. In 2010 and 2012, nobody's going to give a shit about whether this bill got 60 votes or 80 votes. They're just going to care about whether we seem to be on the road to recovery.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 23, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

From a strategic point of view, by saying that he wants an 80-vote majority, Obama may make it easier for him to get a comparatively smaller 60-vote majority. If he said outright that he wants 60 votes, Senators would have an incentive to make the vote margin below that number, so that they can stike harder bargains with Obama.

Posted by: jonp72 on January 23, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Of course the republicans don't want a strong bill, they want it to fail because that means that Obama and the Democrats fail, which is more important to them than fixing our economy and financial system. "Common good" is not a concept embraced by republicans, and expecting them to act in good faith is a wasted exercise.

Stop wasting time, Democrats. I can understand the new president making an attempt to give the republicans a chance to act like grownups but (unsurprisingly) they haven't. Get on with doing what's best for the American people and ignore those who don't share that value.

Posted by: Limbaugh's pilonidal cyst on January 23, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

My favorite part is Charles Grassley opposing Medicaid help for the states because "governors will use the money to mask poor spending in other parts of their budget."

That's a great move, Charlie -- cut all those poor people off from healthcare because the governors of all 50 states didn't submit their budgets to you for your personal approval.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 23, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

The payroll tax relief idea was supposed to be a good one, if the Republicans like it, why not add that into the bill? It is immediate, because it doesn't rely on the government to print checks.

Of course it might cost more in accountant/software programmer time to correctly calculate the employee payroll.

Posted by: tomj on January 23, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I say screw em. Why cowtow to these idiots. They have brought our country to its knees. They have made it so we're despised around the world. I could go on and on but the point is why on earth should any play be given to people that do innumerable moves that end up screwing the vast majority.

Posted by: Gandalf on January 23, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen is arguing that congress should craft "...a better bill that passes with 60 votes," rather than, "...a weaker bill that passes with 80." I bet the Republican GOP said the same thing when they were in power.

Posted by: Jon Karak on January 23, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

No matter who is for or against this package, Dem or Rep, I am quite skeptical about the capacity of the bill to provide adequate short term stimulus. Seems like more of the same muddle we have come to expect from the House of Representatives. This ain't going to get the job done fast enough to be of consequence.

Posted by: lou on January 23, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

What is the Republican obsession with tax breaks for business? Nobody hires on the basis of a tax break, they hire on the basis of the need for the product or service produced. Last night I saw Steve Forbes arguing for tax cuts, "it worked for Ronald Reagan." Does he mean raising them back to Reagan's levels?

Screw the Republicans, they have been in charge for years and now it is time to fix the mess, not repeat the mistakes.

Posted by: Tigershark on January 23, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

False equivalence Jon. First off, the Republican's never gave a rat's behind about behind about 60 votes because they knew the Democrat's didn't have the spine to threaten a filibuster, let alone carry through. Secondly, the Democrats have two little things in their favor: an actual strong voter mandate, and evidence-based logic.

The Republicans, and more specifically the republican ideology, is flawed. It doesn't work. We've done the experiments and nearly destroyed out country in the process. They don't deserve and equal place at the table.

Posted by: Dustin on January 23, 2009 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

There are obviously multiple ways of looking at this, and certainly one of them is that the GOP doesn't want the economy to get better in order to deny Obama a victory. But also keep in mind that the GOP is the party of rich, white men and viewed from that perspective the economy isn't doing that badly. Sure, the value of their portfolios have dropped like everybody else's, but they will recover, but in what other economic climate besides this one would a guy like John Thain be given the opportunity to hand out 3-4 billion (what's a billion either way?) to his top executives, courtesy of the Federal Reserve? This is after the company lost staggering amounts of money because of greed and incompetence. This appears to create an incentive for the GOP leaders to drive the economy into the ground.

Posted by: Alex Kirby on January 23, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

For a more balanced view of the process surrounding the development of the stimulus package in Congress, you should read Brooks' column in today's NYT. His key points:

"A study by the Congressional Budget Office found that less than half of the money for infrastructure and discretionary programs would be spent by Oct. 1, 2010.

According to The Washington Post, of the $30 billion devoted to highway spending, only $4 billion will be spent in the next two years. Less than $3 billion of the $18.5 billion for renewable energy and less than half the financing for school construction will be spent by 2011."

Next door to Brooks, Krugman also expresses concerns about how the stimulus package is developing.

It ain't all Republican intransigence that is in play here.

Posted by: RonG on January 23, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to see the democrats craft a bill
tight enough to garner 51 votes in the senate,
even if it means blowing up or at least revising
the filibuster rule. It has been done before.
Does anyone doubt that the rethugs would do this
if the numbers were revesed?

Posted by: josecanusee on January 23, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans believe they have not been treated as equal partners in the process, and that conservative ideas aren't being taken seriously.

And they would be correct.

Posted by: gttim on January 23, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

For a more balanced view of the process surrounding the development of the stimulus package in Congress, you should read Brooks' column in today's NYT. -RonG

LAUGH. OUT. LOUD.

Seriously, you have the most phonetically apt handle I have ever encountered on the internet.

Posted by: doubtful on January 23, 2009 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

This is an old Republican tactic. They are much better negotiators than the Congressional Democrats are. If you give them concessions, they don't reciprocate by making concessions of their own; they demand more concessions. And why shouldn't they? It's a stupid move to start out by conceding ground without getting anything in return.

To get the bill that they want, Democrats need to start out well to the left of where they want to wind up, just as the Republicans start well to the right of where they want to wind up. Instead, Democrats pre-negotiate with themselves, and the result is that they lose even when they are in the majority.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 23, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

We're left with the same dynamic that's existed from the beginning of the process: the Obama administration can pursue a better bill that passes with 60 votes, or a weaker bill that passes with 80. The priority should obviously be the quality of the package.

Steve, there is a deeper point to this. By at least trying to listen, perhaps Obama brings along a handful of Republicans he can work with...enough to get a vote of, say, 64 - 68. This would be enough to buy some bipartisan cover.

Further, by at least trying to work with the opposition he may earn some begrudging respect...not the kind that gets talked about in public, but the kind that might pave the way for limited support for certain projects down the road.

I have long said that no person is completely conservative or liberal. Even the most conservative person in Congress probably has one or two issues where she or he is more moderate. By not burning bridges unless absolutely necessary, Obama may be able to tap that person for that particular issue.

Posted by: independent thinker on January 23, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Obama made the same old democratic mistake (? or is it design) of thinking pre-capitulation would satisfy republicans only to be greeted with the truth once again:

1) that nothing a democrat does would ever satisfy a republican
2) that no matter how much democrats compromise, republicans will never acknowledge it and just demand more.

truly, truly, the WRONG approach with republicans and not a good start or forebearance of things to come.
.

Posted by: pluege on January 23, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Further, by at least trying to work with the opposition he may earn some begrudging respect...not the kind that gets talked about in public"
independent thinker on January 23, 2009 at 12:40 PM

I don't disagree with this, but I do think it's incomplete. I think -- I hope! -- that what Obama's doing here is not so much playing to the Congresscritters, but to Jane and Joe Sixpack. He can accurately, and what's much more important visibly so, claim that he's been more than fair to the Rethug opposition, and it's they that are being obstructionist, intransigent, and unreasonable, and still playing the "old politics" (in short: being Republicans). I think (and hope) that Obama's playing chess, while the Rethugs aren't even playing checkers, but Go Fish.
I think that such stances, attitudes, and announcements are a big part of why Obama's getting such high (80%+) ratings nationally, and 60% in places like Texas and Tennessee, as Steve noted in his 12:00noon post today.

Posted by: smartalek on January 23, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

According to Politico, Obama had a message for the Republican whiners today:

"I won."

I think smartalek's take is right. It's not that Obama thinks he's going to win over Republicans. It's that he wants the story in the media to be that he tried to work with them, but they were stuck in the "old politics" and wouldn't do it.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 23, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

To Doubtful:

I'm really impressed by all the facts you adduced to demonstrate that I'm wRonG. It is the same number as there are fingers hanging from your ears.

RonG

Posted by: RonG on January 23, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody who isn't concerned about the increase in debt from the Obama giveaway programs is stupid.

Posted by: Luther on January 23, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm really impressed by all the facts you adduced to demonstrate that I'm wRonG. -RonG

Is this your first day? Everyone here, EVERYONE, knows that you don't take Brooks seriously. Ever.

Why bother dredging up the facts about how many times he's been wrong? You can look them up for yourself if you care.

I couldn't possibly waste that much bandwidth in one comment.

Posted by: doubtful on January 23, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

The republicans have had 8 yrs of tax cuts and it never worked.

Posted by: jveaunt14437 on January 23, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Anybody who isn't concerned about the increase in debt from the Obama giveaway programs is stupid."

Anyone who isn't concerned about doing nothing while the economy slides into depression is stupid and ignorant of history.

Posted by: James G on January 23, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK
Anybody who isn't concerned about the increase in debt from the Obama giveaway programs is stupid.

I was concerned by the increase in debt:GDP ratio and the manipulation of tax policy to guarantee that the handful of richest people at the top got all the benefits during the 2001-2007 expansion.

In a deep and long recession, deficit-fueled stimulus is the only sane approach; though the high debt:GDP ratio Bush policies have left us with, and the necessary increase in that ratio to deal with the recession, will make it critical to address that problem once we are firmly into a recovery (and taking care not to bust the recovery by poorly handling how you pay for it.)

Posted by: cmdicely on January 23, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

"We've made it pretty clear to our members that we are supporting this bill," Boehner told reporters after the meeting. "We also have made it clear to our members we expected as many of them who could vote for this to vote for it."

After bashing the bailout plan for more than a week, rank-and-file Republicans are starting to accept what Boehner and others stated early on: The current economic meltdown is a bad situation – and a massive government intervention in the financial markets is regrettable response – but it’s their only option at this late stage in the crisis.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/14054.html

"We've made it pretty clear to our members that we are supporting this bill," Boehner told reporters after the meeting. "We also have made it clear to our members we expected as many of them who could vote for this to vote for it."

After bashing the bailout plan for more than a week, rank-and-file Republicans are starting to accept what Boehner and others stated early on: The current economic meltdown is a bad situation – and a massive government intervention in the financial markets is regrettable response – but it’s their only option at this late stage in the crisis.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/14054.html


Never once did these sorry ass-scratching sons of bitches like Boehner say - this bailout of the banks is socialism - is wrong and we won't do it - will create a bigger deficit we can't afford.


I watched CSPA N during the appropriations committee hearings on amendments to the current stimulus bill. I noted the Republicans stonewalling, undermining any support, following party lines at the expense of common sense and voting to strip the stimulus package of any and all support for regular people in America. They don't care about the American people, they don't serve the American people and never once considered their actions when forcing us to pay for their bailout of Wall Street friends and banking interests - most of which they are indebted to and profit from. It is disgusting.


Now, after oppressive tyranny that has run America and her people into the ground over the last thirty years, the overspending that cost us a ten trillion dollar deficit under their control, and no real rights or freedoms left to American citizens, businesses that are in utter ruin, huge unemployment and our country sold to the highest bidder around the world - even our enemies are laughing at our Congressional "leaders" and Republican party.


What a pathetic joke on all of us - and they still talk about us like we are donkeys or asses to be manipulated by stick and carrot. They are screwing us all still today because they refuse to consider being part of the solution or of creating solutions and insist on continuing the same old propaganda and the same old game to profit at our expense.


I refuse to be a citizen supporting the Republican party or the Democratic party, the banks, the big business billionaires, the credit derivatives gamblers, the hedge funds, the stock traders, the brokers, the real estate moguls, and the crap they have forced down all of our throats. There is no change so long as they all stay the same.

Somebody in America ought to sue the shorts off every one of the legislators that voted for the bailouts to banks misappropriating our money to do it. And, a class action suit should be made against the Republican party for misrepresenting their principles to those that have supported them. They didn't use those principles in action and they should be held accountable.


- cricketdiane, 01-23-09

Posted by: Cricket Diane C Phillips on January 23, 2009 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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