Focus shifts from first stimulus to second
By Ben Pershing
With the economic stimulus measure now 366 days old, the two parties continue sparring over the first bill's effectiveness even as they plot strategy for a second package coming through the legislative pipeline.
"President Obama defended his year-old economic stimulus package on Wednesday, as Republicans and Democrats took to the Internet and the airwaves to wage a furious partisan battle over whether the bill was a monumental waste of taxpayer money or had rescued the economy from catastrophe," the New York Times reports. The Washington Post says, "The giant economic stimulus package enacted a year ago has helped stabilize the economy but has not made much of a dent in the nation's vast unemployment." The Associated Press gives a similar summary: "The jobless got a hand. Taxpayers got tax breaks. And a sinking economy stabilized. But the public's response to President Barack Obama's recession-fighting policies has been increasingly dreary. And the reason is simple: six months of unemployment above 9.6 percent."
USA Today fact-checks some stimulus claims by both sides, while Time creates a report card for a half-dozen key stimulus programs. ABC News writes on a GAO report finding that the administration's much-touted "$5 billion weatherization program that was meant to save energy and create jobs has not yet done much of either." Dana Milbank looks at stimulus critics, noting that "this burgeoning industry of conservative lawmakers, political operatives, think tanks and media outlets has benefited enormously from the legislation."
Democrats insist the first stimulus bill was successful, but they're not so confident that they're actually willing to use the same word to describe their next economy-boosting measure. With a cloture vote scheduled for Monday, Harry Reid "lacks the votes to begin debating his targeted jobs bill," The Hill reports. Roll Call says "Senate Republican leaders are hoping to persuade waffling members of their Conference to block ... Reid's $15 billion jobs bill by arguing that Reid has brushed aside minority rights in bringing it to the floor, aides told a gathering of lobbyists Wednesday." Politico writes that Reid is trying hard to lure Scott Brown into backing the bill. House Republicans want a televised jobs summit, but there's no indication Democrats will agree to their request.
Speaking of summits, Bloomberg writes that "House Democrats said their party may not be able to offer a single health-care proposal at the Feb. 25 meeting President Barack Obama has called with a challenge to Republicans to present their alternative. ... House Democrats, during a conference call with reporters yesterday, said that though the two chambers are close to an agreement, they may not have a united plan by next week." Roll Call reports that despite some public optimism for a deal, "there has been little evidence that the House and Senate are 'very close' or that the talk of bipartisanship is anything more than just talk. It's not clear that an excise tax deal on health insurance cut with unions before the Massachusetts special election that gave GOP Senators 41 seats has the votes in the House, and there is a laundry list of other items that remain unresolved."
Judd Gregg tells AP that there is a way to get a bipartisan agreement, but it involves starting from scratch. The New York Times looks at criticism of the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, which Obama and other reform advocates have cited frequently in their efforts. Jonathan Cohn examines Democrats' back-room deals on health care and puts them in context: "[N]one of this is to say the Democrats have acted like saints this year or that the deals they made to pass health care reform aren't, on their own terms, objectionable. But lawmakers have done far worse things in the name of passing a bill. And nobody knows that better than the people trying to block this one."
The New York Times looks at Obama's standing among environmentalists: "The early optimism of environmental advocates that the policies of former President George W. Bush would be quickly swept away and replaced by a bright green future under Mr. Obama is for many environmentalists giving way to resignation, and in some cases, anger. ... Environmental advocates largely remained silent late last year as Mr. Obama all but abandoned his quest for sweeping climate change legislation and began to reach out to Republicans to enact less ambitious clean energy measures. But the grumbling of the greens has grown louder in recent weeks as Mr. Obama has embraced nuclear power, offshore oil drilling and "clean coal" as keystones of his energy policy. And some environmentalists have expressed concern that the president may be sacrificing too much to placate Republicans and the well-financed energy lobbies." For good measure, Ezra Klein notes that organized labor is also unhappy with Obama. (For a lighter look at the president, check out New York magazine's fine slideshow, "A History of Obama Feigning Interest in Mundane Things.")
Turning to politics, the Wall Street Journal writes on Obama's visits to "Western battleground states this week in a show of support for two of his party's vulnerable 2010 candidates" -- Reid and Michael Bennett. On 2012, George Will says Sarah Palin, "who with 17 months remaining in her single term as Alaska's governor quit the only serious office she has ever held, is obsessively discussed as a possible candidate in 2012. Why? She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states." Will adds that the reaction to Obama on the right has been "populism, a celebration of intellectual ordinariness. This is not a stance that will strengthen the Republican Party, which recently has become ruinously weak among highly educated whites. Besides, full-throated populism has not won a national election in 178 years, since Andrew Jackson was reelected in 1832." The Fix notes that neither Palin nor any of the other current GOP frontrunners have much national security experience.
Michael Barone says Republicans look good electorally but need a plan in case they actually have to govern. David Von Drehle traces the roots of the tea party movement. As for its future, Karl Rove writes: "The tea party movement will be more effective than it otherwise would be if it refuses to allow itself to become an appendage of either major political party. The tea partiers have made an important splash because they are not yet another auxiliary to the Democratic or Republican parties. Like the pro-life and Second Amendment movements before it, the tea party movement will have a bigger impact if it holds the feet of politicians in both parties to its fire. Each party must know it can win or lose swing tea party voters." The CPAC conference begins today, and Politico reports that "a jolt of anti-Obama populist energy has upended the movement's traditional hierarchy, lifting some new or previously low profile groups to unprecedented heights while leaving traditional powers struggling to adapt."
February 18, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: The Rundown
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