Senate Split Over Obamas Stimulus Plan
The Congressional reaction to President-elect Barack Obamas reported $850 billion economic stimulus proposal was breaking down along partisan lines Friday, with Democrats expressing a willingness to work with the incoming White House administration and Republicans voicing skepticism.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reids (D-Nev.) office sent an e-mail to the Democratic Conference late Thursday, setting as close to Jan. 20 as possible as the target for Congressional approval of Obamas economic stimulus plan. Any hiccups would likely occur in the Senate, where early indications show Democrats receptive and Republicans prepared to oppose it.
To take $850 billion just because we have a new administration to rubber-stamp it would be a big mistake, incoming Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) said in an interview on Friday. Ensign led last weeks opposition to Congressional approval of a financial bailout for the Big Three domestic automobile manufacturers.
An e-mail from Reids chief of staff, Gary Myrick, to Senate Democratic offices described Obamas proposal as one that could include funding for energy, infrastructure, education, health care and protecting the most vulnerable.
Jim Manley, Reids chief spokesman, suggested that there was likely to be strong Democratic support for Obamas plan, at least in spirit. Manley stressed that specifics remain to be developed, and he was clear not to voice support for or opposition to any particular dollar figure, $850 billion or otherwise.
Theres strong support for a vigorous, robust package that will provide the biggest bang for the buck. The number discussed may or may not be correct, Manley said. Were still working on the specifics. But in the end, well only be able to do what we can get through the Senate.
With an expanded 258-177 majority, House Democrats will be positioned to approve a stimulus package to their liking after the 111th Congress gavels in on Jan. 6. The House parliamentary rules provide the minority party virtually no avenues to bring opposition to bear on legislation.
But Senate rules afford the minority plenty of routes to hold things up and shape the final outcome of a bill, potentially giving the incoming minority of 41 or 42 Republicans a significant say in the final form of Obamas stimulus legislation.
Privately, Senate Democratic aides concede that GOP cooperation will be necessary to approve the type of stimulus package being discussed. A senior Republican Senate aide signaled that the GOP Conference intends to shape Obamas package to to fit its parameters.
Before anything is passed, well need to ensure that the funding is actually stimulative, that its not merely a series of earmarks disguised as stimulus and that were not spending money we dont have without any protection for the taxpayers, this aide said.
Well also want to take a look at what is timely, targeted spending, and what is merely a wish list of spending goodies that didnt make the cut on the appropriations bills.
Obama is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20, and his transition team has been in talks with Congressional Democratic leaders on an economic stimulus package with the hope that it might be ready to sign as soon as his first day as president.