The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Rundown

Obama, Hill Democrats Diverge on Stimulus

By Ben Pershing
For all the talk of how one party controls all the levers of power in Washington, yesterday's stimulus vote provided a useful reminder that President Obama and his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill have different constituencies, different promises to keep and different elections to worry about.

First, the fact that not a single Republican voted for the stimulus package in the House is a sign of GOP unity that the party rarely displayed in the 110th Congress. It's also a signal of how unafraid the minority is of the potential political consequences of opposing the measure. For all the talk by Democrats that the public is firmly behind the stimulus -- and polls suggest they are -- it was striking that Republicans were unanimously unbowed by that argument.

But the strategic split on the Democratic side is more interesting. Obama was elected based in part on a promise to change the culture of Washington, and to reach across the aisle. Hill Democrats were not. Obama was elected with some Republican votes, most Hill Democrats were not (and of the few that were, several voted against the stimulus). Obama made a very public effort to woo Republican support for the stimulus. Hill Democrats did not.

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Posted at 8:15 AM ET on Jan 29, 2009  | Category:  The Rundown
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Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 8:34 PM

Oh, please don't start with that.

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 8:09 PM

SP = Stimulus Package

...but I have no problem with secular progressives since that would include all of the founding fathers : )

Posted by: JohnQuimby | January 29, 2009 3:41 PM


I don't "run away" from anything -- using your definition, however, the Democrats are not even "in charge" now -- I think history will prove me right.

SP = Secular-progressives?

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 3:06 PM


I'm right there with you. Nobody likes having to buy back their own country.

The GOP leaders would like us to forget that they allowed the banks to be robbed and robbed the treasury to pay for it when the banks collapsed.

I'm all for loyal opposition. But trying to make it appear that the SP is what broke the country is an outright lie.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | January 29, 2009 1:40 PM

Any republicans who've been deemed elected in the past two years are obviously supported by an electorate that refuses to accept what reality confronts them with. They're impervious to reason, so their elected officials refusal to cooperate is their shame, not Obama's.

Also, the reporters on Fox ARE angry clowns who should not be taken seriously by adults.

Posted by: rooster54 | January 29, 2009 1:38 PM

I agree with you that it's sobering to look at what Rahm said about seizing the moment in a crisis. It's a dangerous proposition. After all, it's what Bush did after Sept. 11.

Naomi Klein did an elegant study of crisis exploitation and published her findings in her book, "Shock Doctrine, the Rise of Disaster Capitalism". It should be required reading for everyone.

Posted by: rooster54 | January 29, 2009 1:28 PM


Your question points out just how badly Conservatives want to run away from their own record.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | January 29, 2009 1:25 PM

JakeD, no I mean 8.

You have to count Bush and the ability of the GOP leaders to filibuster the Senate.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | January 29, 2009 1:24 PM

Hollow Victory

... Without a single Republican voting for the bill, his high-profile visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday came to exactly naught - at least on the House side.

Obama vowed to change Washington and usher in a new post-partisan era. The the mood music and optics were pitch perfect as he trekked up to the Hill. Republicans praised his gesture, welcomed his sincere demeanour and appreciated his willingness to listen.

Problem was, he wanted only to listen and did not want to act on what Republicans said. When he was asked if he would re-structure the package to include more tax cuts, he reportedly responded: "Feel free to whack me over the head because I probably will not compromise on that part."

He apparently added: " I understand that and I will watch you on Fox News and feel bad about myself."

That's fine. No doubt Obama will indeed get beaten up on Fox News. But his failure to get even the squishiest moderate Republican - including the 11 entertained in the White House by Rahm Emanuel last night - to back him is not merely a big score for Rep Eric Cantor, Republican Whip, and the rest of the GOP leadership.

It also shows that it is not just Fox, the loony Right or Rush Limbaugh - or however else you might want to characterise the opposition in order to marginalise it - who had grave misgivings about the content of the bill.

The Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill badly miscalculated by treating the bill as a victor's charter. Not that it seemed to bother Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, who grinned from ear to ear as she announced the result of the vote.

Obama said yesterday he did not feel he had ownership of the bill. Be that as it may, if it goes through the Senate in similar fashion and is signed into law then - the efforts of Pelosio and Senator Harry Reid notwithstanding - it will be his and his alone.

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 1:18 PM

Sometimes worthwhile projects don't make enough easy money to satisfy the entitled rich. As for Amtrack, a history of half measures has made it look like a bad idea. Europe has great train service.

Posted by: rooster54 | January 29, 2009 1:11 PM

A 40-Year Wish List

"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."

So said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in November, and Democrats in Congress are certainly taking his advice to heart. The 647-page, $825 billion House legislation is being sold as an economic "stimulus," but now that Democrats have finally released the details we understand Rahm's point much better. This is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years.

We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts ...

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 12:33 PM


You meant "SIX of the last eight years" right?

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 12:29 PM

As the republicans try to convince us to let them continue finding new ways pillage workers and the land they live on, it may be a good time to point something out. Right wingnuts have often gotten an extra boost of momentum at critical times by rallying around their cheerleaders.

Unlike a pro football team, republicans prefer to use ANGRY CLOWNS for their rallying purposes.

Examples of ANGRY CLOWNS:
Rush Limbaugh, G.W.Bush, Hank Paulson, Senator Stevens, JOE THE PLUMBER, Sarah Pailin, vocal supporters at republican rallies, Sean Hannity, Fox news anchors, etc....

Please pay attention whenever you see a republican trying to make a forceful argument through the media. The people who choose to serve this function are almost always ANGRY CLOWNS.

It's really amusing. Once you see it, it's hard not to see it.

Please spread this message far and wide. Because friends don't let friends take advice from ANGRY CLOWNS. It's obviously bad for America.

Thank you.

Posted by: rooster54 | January 29, 2009 12:04 PM

This recession proudly brought to you by The Republican Party, who will do everything they can to make it worse, (Unless your one of their rich buddies

Posted by: rooster54 | January 29, 2009 11:42 AM

I don't like spending a trillion dollars to get my country back from the pawn shop either.

Republican party leaders were in charge for the majority of the last 8 years. Now they're claiming "principles" forced them to vote against reckless spending.

How cruel to vote against unemployment benefits just as 4.78 million jobless claims are filed.

Go ahead and hide in the bunker with Rush Limbaugh if you want to. Blame the American people for not being worthy of your visionary leadership.

We'll take care of things from here.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | January 29, 2009 11:37 AM

We have to spend the next four years cleaning up the messes made in the previous eight. The CBO actually said the Stimulus needed to be bigger and more front heavy. We will only get to the business of progress after we clear the debris.

There has never been a government in our history that spent more money to less effect than the Republiclowns in the last eight years.


Posted by: bs2004 | January 29, 2009 10:39 AM

Gibbs on the Today show couldn't answer whether Nancy Pelosi let Obama down. Interesting.

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 10:12 AM

Less than $90 billion of the $825 billion would actually go toward short-term stimulus. That's why every Republican (including Ron Paul) and 11 Democrats voted against it.

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 10:04 AM

This is what one would expect from a party that does not admit they screwed things up. Why don't we cut to the chase... To make the GOP folks happy, let's not have any taxes at all, make that situation permanent, and run the country on deficit spending entirely. Now, that's some sound logic. How can we expect the same bunch of blockheads that got us in this mess to start admitting it now? They remind me of a bunch of spoiled frat boys who, as trust fund brats, never quite could understand that things need to be paid for, while at the same time wearing their GOP frat pins, posing to be fiscally prudent. Come on now boys (and girls), it's time to get real. You've had your 8 years in the pork barrel jacuzzi (Iraq-Afgan.-Dept.Homeland Security-Financial Bailout - RECORD Bush deficits-unlimited military,CIA,police spending-eavesdropping,haliburton-oil companies-no child left behind-just about anything possible to weaken the constitution spending whatever they want, hell there was more money spent on tazers that school lunches during the last 8 years). Now, it's the people's turn. Get over it, you GOP dinosaurs. Your time has come and gone. The comet of public accountability has hit, you are going extinct!

Posted by: humanbeng | January 29, 2009 9:58 AM

Be my guest, James. The rest of us will have to wait until 2011 to clean up your mess.

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 9:47 AM

Divisive Democrats!

They are doing exactly what the Republicans said they would, spending like we've never seen before. They said Obama had a Trillion dollar spending plan to super size the people's dependence on the National Government thereby creating job security for the democrats. These chuckleheads have no moral qualms about destroying the nation just to ensure their dominance... We can surely look forward to more social engineering programs from the democrats like their "fruitful" Fair Housing Act that has caused the world economic melt down... Wow, the CHANGE we really needed!

Posted by: AverageAmerican1 | January 29, 2009 9:46 AM

The CBO only looked at a small portion of the bill by their own admission. Try to separate your facts from your conspiracies. I am just a little let down by the fact that any bone was thrown to the republiclowns at all. They lost across the board and their ideas and policy decisions were wrong or downright corrupted. Republicans should not be consulted at all, about anything until the democrats have exhausted their chances and are voted out of office.

The people want the democrats to have their turn.


Posted by: bs2004 | January 29, 2009 9:40 AM

Setting here in ohio reading the W/P and other papers,It is hard to understand what the REPUBLICANS are upset about, Nothing has changed, it the same dog and pony act, only the ring master is difference. Money for corporate america, permission for Israel, to tell the UN to go to hell. What more do the repubs want, they even have the REV R. LIMBAUGH praying for failure. For GODS sakes grow up. As an flight instructor once told me (IF YOUR IN TROUBLE DON,T JUST SIT THERE, DO SOMETHING, EVEN IF ITS WRONG, AT LEAST YOU WILL KNOW YOU TRYED.)

Posted by: dv1236 | January 29, 2009 9:30 AM

The Democrats who voted for this "stimulus" (less than $90 billion of the $825 billion would actually go toward short-term stimulus -- the rest is pork-- just ask the CBO) will regret it when nothing has changed by November 2010.

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 9:13 AM

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