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A Difficult Stimulus Conference Ahead

By Ben Pershing

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) this morning predicted that the House-Senate conference on the economic stimulus package could stretch well into next week, though he pledged that negotiations would begin almost immediately this afternoon after the Senate passes its version of the bill.

Hoyer said the two chambers would take "such time as we need" to get the bill right, suggesting the process could go on at least until Thursday of next week, when Congress is nominally supposed to be off for the Presidents' Day recess.

He said the House would appoint its conferees this afternoon. As for the transparency of those proceedings, Hoyer said they would likely be open to the public but, as is usually the case with major legislation, much of the real negotiating will take place during pre-conference discussions.

"I don't have any reason to believe the conference won't be open," Hoyer said. "I do have reason to believe that given the time frame available to us, once the Senate passes the bill I'm sure there will be a lot of discussions very quickly. I don't expect a protracted conference but I do expect when the conference meets it will be open."

Whatever compromise the two chambers produce will have to attract at least 60 votes in the Senate, meaning it will need the support of at least two Republicans. One of the three GOP senators who backed that chamber's version, Arlen Specter (Pa.), said Monday that he would support the conference report only if it comes back "virtually intact" -- which essentially means the House would have to accept the Senate bill, period.

"Well, I'm shocked," Hoyer said, tongue in cheek, when asked for his response. "That's not the process. The process is, the House acts, the Senate acts and then we try to reconcile the differences."

While he was at it, Hoyer took a swipe at the Senate measure, which, he said, "spends more money than the House bill, by about $20 billion [and] which creates almost half a million less jobs than the House bill."

Once there is a conference report, Hoyer said he expected the House would vote on it first, followed by the Senate.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 10, 2009; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda , Dem. Leaders , Purse Strings  
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Comments

So the new Great Compromiser, Sen. Specter, says he won't vote for the final bill unless ithe Senate version comes back from conference "virtually intact"? And his threat (and maybe those of the two ladies Maine) means that only the flawed Senate version can clear the 60-vote threshhold under the Senate rules?

Then let the Senate Democratic majority invoke the "nuclear option" and change the rules so that a simple majority of senators has to approve the final version.
The stakes are too high to allow a small group of "moderate" senators (3 Republicans and one or two blue-dog Democrats) to force passage of a stimulus package that, most economists agree, includes too many non-stimulative tax cuts and not enough stimulative "punch" like revenue to the states, funds for infrastructure, education, health, science, and a greener economy.

So what if the Republicans howl and the "moderates" squirm? Anyway, Obama and Democrats are going to "own" the stimulus and whatever success (or, God forbid, failure) ensues. Since the economy desperately needs stimulating, go with the best possible version, get it out quick, and let the idiots, the ideologues, and the cynics who are hoping that Obama fails so they can scramble back into power go climb a stick.

Posted by: jm917 | February 10, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm.. they'd better fix this. The current Senate bill contains reductions in aid to the unemployed for health care.

First, the amount people eligible for COBRA at any time since Aug 1 must pay has changed from 35% to 50%.

Second, I can't find any provision in the current bill OR last week's bill that makes the unemployed or anyone else different than who is currently eligibile for Medicaid, eligible for Medicaid. That could be because nooone has shown me where it is, or it could be because it quietly disappered, which removes any coverage of the unemployed or other emergency medical assistance through medicaid.

Posted by: villandra | February 10, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

When oh when will someone with cajones amongst the Democratic Senators remember that Republicans actually could try to filibuster the resulting conference bill instead of threatening to? I would love to see old wheezy Repubs have to stand at the podium for days endlessly defending their terrible, unpopular position while the whole world crashes down on them. It's the surest way to 80 Democratic Senators in 2010.

Posted by: DigiMark | February 10, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Any Democrat who obstructs this bill is a de facto Republican. Any Republican who obstructs this bill is a de facto Democrat. Remember, and vote accordingly.

Posted by: kengelhart | February 10, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

How convenient for the Republicans to get on the stump and attack this new crucial bill they did not vote for, being they obviously wish to see America fail. They call for transparency and disclosure, something President Obama campaigned on in his message of change and has clearly provided every step of the way from his first day in office and especially with this bill. The Republicans have used this process to politicize the most important stimulus bill in our history. Where were the stimulus bills they offered when Bush was ruining the US economy for 8 damaging years? Where was the transparency when House and Senate Republicans held secret meetings and locked Democrats out of those meetings again and again when the Republicans were the majority? Republicans have no credibility, no shame and are tremendous hypocrites. They ruined our country and now want to point fingers at the Democrats for doing what is needed to fix the mess the Republicans and Bush created for us all.

Posted by: Hillary08 | February 10, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

How convenient for the Republicans to get on the stump and attack this new crucial bill they did not vote for, being they obviously wish to see America fail. They call for transparency and disclosure, something President Obama campaigned on in his message of change and has clearly provided every step of the way from his first day in office and especially with this bill. The Republicans have used this process to politicize the most important stimulus bill in our history. Where were the stimulus bills they offered when Bush was ruining the US economy for 8 damaging years? Where was the transparency when House and Senate Republicans held secret meetings and locked Democrats out of those meetings again and again when the Republicans were the majority? Republicans have no credibility, no shame and are tremendous hypocrites. They ruined our country and now want to point fingers at the Democrats for doing what is needed to fix the mess the Republicans and Bush created for us all.

Posted by: Hillary08 | February 10, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

The House should hold the Agriculture appropriations bill hostage. No real negotiation on the stimulus bill, no Ag bill. Hold up the Ag bill as the very last bill of the session the House considers. If the Senate insists on shafting America, then the House passes a gutted Ag bill, sends it over to the Senate on the last day of the session, and promptly adjourns. Then let's see how much the "centrists" worry about deficit spending.

No Northeast Dairy Compact, Sens. Snowe, Collins, and Specter. No cotton subsidies. No sugar subsidies. No rice subsidies. No peanut quotas. No crop insurance. No corn subsidies.

The House needs to play the hardest of hardball with these Senatorial blowhards. The Ag bill is just the way to do it. The Senate uses its medieval procedural rules to hold America hostage. They deserve no quarter.

Posted by: Garak | February 10, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

This is what happens when voters fail to properly spay and neuter their Republicans.

President Obama should have neutered the ones in congress when he first took office.

He brought them a nice steak, but when he did, they started barking and baying at the moon, and then tried to hump his leg and bite him.

He really should have had them neutered.

Posted by: svreader | February 10, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse


With Judd Gregg not voting and Minnesota still short one Senator, it would appear we only have to worry about 98 votes. And I believe the rules state a 3/5 majority, not 60 votes, for cloture.

59/98 = 60.2%

So the Democrats really only need one Republican Senator to vote with them.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | February 10, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Take the Republicans in Congress at their word. Stop military shipbuilding in Mississippi. Cut Texas agricultural subsidies (they are #1 in receiving subsidies; California, while #1 in agricultural production is #10 in subsidies). Surely there are places we can accommodate GOP desires.

Posted by: mischanova | February 10, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

SVReader--thank you for the most cogent and intelligent posting I have read on WaPo in many months. Bravo!

Posted by: harmiclir | February 10, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Why not give something for the middle class that they can use. What's wrong with treating capital losses in 2009 as ordinary losses so that the middle class can write off their horrendous stock market losses against their income in total. Investing involves risks, but the risks incurred were intensified in the first place by lack of supervision of hedge funds, etc. so that they could overleverage, by greedy unprincipled executives who aggravated the situation by overlooking bad or fraudulent practices so that they could get higher bonuses and fees, and by poor governance. Both parties are to blame, and they can at least try to make some amends for their actions. charles hopfl

Posted by: hopflcd | February 10, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats, in conference, must fix this bill and then do whatever is necessary to shove it down the Rethuglicans throats.

Pres. Obama has made a noble but misguided effort at creating bipartisanship. It is time to face the facts: the spirit of Tom DeLay is alive and well on the Right in both Houses of Congress. Nothing has changed except the size of the Democratic majority. Jettison the Dole accommodation and force a real filibuster or, better yet, suspend the rules for this bill and allow a simple majority for passage.

The tax cuts included as appeasement to the GOP (this excludes the middle-class tax cuts; the GOP views the middle-class and all workers as the enemy) are the least stimulating measures in the bill. Business tax cuts are negative stimulus, generating $.75 of economic activity for every $1.00 spent. A dollar in food assistance generates $1.50.

The GOP are not seeking and have never sought the best for our nation. For them, the definition of American includes a minimum income requirement. As W. quite plainly put it: "The haves and the have-mores. . .[their] base."

It is time to complete the process they began and render them completely irrelevant.

Posted by: cdmomega | February 10, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

The 3 GOP who jumped the fence, and the blue dogs are charged with democracy in the first degree. Take your time and do this right; it doesn't need to be signed on a specific day.

Posted by: linda_521 | February 10, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

It is too bad that the best that the Liberal politicians can propose is a bill that does not help any sector of the economy except the government. This bill will only lay the groundwork for a socialized banking system and the socialization of the medical industry. Paying for the bill will cripple the country financially, at a cost over 1 Trillion bucks.

Something so one-sided as reforming the tax system could put actual money (not money to be printed in the future) into the economy right now. The Fair Tax approach would give money back to those who make it, as well as provide 13 Trillion in revenue to the government.

We should keep the country out of the hands of emotional Liberals who cannot see past their own lust for power and approval. The country should come first, not their PC feelings.

Posted by: AtlantaMan | February 11, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Democrats have not only the GOP obstructing them, but also their own. There is nothing worse than a "blue dog" Democrat(turncoats if you ask me). These "blue dogs" have been one of the main reasons that Bush had his way for the last EIGHT YEARS. We need to get rid of the Feinsteins et. al., and support Pelosi and Reid if we are ever to change things in Washington.

Posted by: nwsjnky1 | February 11, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

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