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Will Stimulus Train Leave Conservatives Behind?

Listening to the continued bipartisan rhetoric coming from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, it would be easy to think that Congress and President Bush are on the glide path toward agreeing on an economic stimulus package that will pass both chambers with nary a dissenting voice.

But listen a little closer, and you'll hear that there are a fair number of conservative Republicans who aren't too happy with the speed and expected destination of the stimulus train.

Tomorrow, the Republican Study Committee, which represents House conservatives, will release its own stimulus proposal. You can bet it will not look much like, say, Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) proposal. Nor will it resemble even the bare outlines of what Bush and the bipartisan leadership have been discussing.

As RSC Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) put it in a statement last week, "Temporary consumer tax rebates should not be confused with economic stimulus. I remain concerned that in the rush to act, an opportunity to put together legislation that will actually grow and stimulate the economy is being missed."

And today, Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the top Budget Committee Republican, complained about the spectacle of "the leadership of both parties and the president chomping at the bit" to prove who is the most aggressive at pushing a stimulus through. Gregg and others are particularly concerned by the idea of adding to the federal debt without necessarily getting sufficient bang for the buck.

"We're going to be so far behind the economy anyway with this package that it's probably not going to have an immediate impact," he said.

So what do conservatives want? Gregg said he'd like to see mortgage relief via raising the current limits on the size of home loans that can be given by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He'd also like to see small businesses get the chance to write off more equipment purchases and other expenses.

In general, conservatives probably won't oppose the idea of simple tax rebates. But while those will address the demand side of the economic equation, conservatives also want action on the supply side -- particularly the extensions of expiring tax cuts that have already been taken off the table in the current stimulus negotiations.

Unless Republican leaders decide, at this late stage, to start drawing lines in the sand, the finished stimulus product is unlikely to contain many of the ideas conservatives are pushing. Will they actually vote against it? Probably not, unless the package contains unexpectedly large spending increases. But that doesn't mean conservatives will be happy about it.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 22, 2008; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda , GOP Leaders , Purse Strings  
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Next: Will Bush Have to Buck His Own Party on the Stimulus?


Some think the U.S. Consumer needs to stop being such a godforsaken cheapskate [relevant humor]:

Posted by: Nick Mockiavelli, Santa Monica, CA | January 22, 2008 11:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm a conservative, and I'll be happy with any money I get back from the government.

Do I wish that it was part of a long term plan to take less of my money in taxes? Of course, but once the government gets a hold of your money, it is hard to get them to give it back. Getting money back one year is better than not getting any at all--which is what would happen if both sides drew partisan lines in the sand and refuesed to compromise.

Look what happened with the illegal imigration compromise last year. The extreme left and unions didn't like it because it would allow for cheap labor to compete with american jobs. The extreme right didn't like it because they saw it as rewarding criminals. The result: another year's worth of illegal imigrants pouring into the country.

The extreme's of both parties need to compromise on issues where doing nothing is worse than doing something. The failed to do this on immigration. At least it looks like they won't fail this time.

Posted by: Paul S. | January 23, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Why not make those tax cuts permanent that benefit the lowest percentage of wage earners? The Republicans can continue to boast that they cut taxes while the Dems can argue that they helped out the lower/middle classes while also making the tax system more progressive. Of course conservatives will howl at this idea but it could at least help out the lower classes who will spend the most of their income in the economy. However, I doubt if many lower to middle income people plan much on way or the other based on whether the tax cuts are permanent or not. They should just give money back to the poorest, who will almost certainly spend it. I know Bush and the Republicans want to make the tax cuts permanent, but better to at least stimulate the economy and not be seen as harming it by blocking it.

Posted by: John P | January 23, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I believe it a good idea for Authors of books like me to get back money from the government
I used to be a conservative, now that I see a conservative (President Bush) is spending more money than is coming in resulting in huge Federal deficits is not what I expected to see conservatives do. As a result, I am nudged to the liberal side of the aisle. The current collapse in the stock market shows and Real Estate market shows the US economy is slipping into recession. I believe the deficit spending and the sub-prime mortgage collapse caused the push towards recession.

Any thing the President working with Congress can do to aid the people crushed by the Stock Market and Real Estate Market collapse would be welcome by ALL citizens, Rich & Poor.

Posted by: Jon Schiller | January 23, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Seems like the 45 million who do not make enough money to pay taxes are being forgotten by most of Congress and the administration. These are the people who would be most likely to spend any money received from the government, thus helping the economy.

And what about those seniors who receive Social Security? Those who get barely enough to live on? They would also spend that money for necessities like food, heating.

Posted by: Utahreb | January 23, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

i believe people on social security should get the rebate also for some of us we did pay taxes while we were working than something may have happen to us that we could no longer work it was not our fault in my case it was cancer at a pretty young age i did not ask or want it but i work most of my life till i no longer had no choice but to go on social security so i fill i should not be punished

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