4:30 p.m. ET: The Senate tug-of-war over the stimulus package has begun in earnest, as friends and foes of the massive measure line up to make their case in the wake of the House's party-line passage of the bill.
Senate conservatives, emboldened by their House colleagues, are vowing to try to block the measure in their chamber next week. Many in the Senate GOP are late to this party; even Mitch McConnell never made a clear statement on how he would vote on the bill until after the House action. Now he's against it, at least in its current form.
At the same time, Democrats and President Obama are working to woo moderate Republicans over to their side in hopes of achieving at least some small level of bipartisanship that they were not able to get in the House. And liberal groups are set to run ads pressuring those moderates to vote for the bill, a tactic that may or may not work as the bill's backers would hope.
8 a.m. ET: 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.
Hill Democrats do have a long list of programs and priorities they've been wanting to fund for years or even decades -- some of which might not be so stimulative -- while Obama does not. And House Democrats remember well how Republicans ruled the roost from 1995 through 2006, while Obama was in Illinois for all but two of those years and doesn't bear the same scars of partisan warfare. Add all that up, and it means that the stimulus vote was the first but certainly won't be the only time that Obama and his colleagues on the Hill go their separate ways
Next up is the Senate, where Obama will redouble his efforts to attract at least a token amount of Republican support. The Senate measure includes relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax that the House bill doesn't, a sweetener that appeals to both parties. And the Senate has more GOP moderates than the House does and a firmer tradition of bipartisan cooperation, so it seems likely that a few in the minority will join the majority in voting for passage.
But make no mistake -- Obama and his fellow Democrats now own this bill. Without significant buy-in from Republicans, one party will be considered solely responsible for one of the largest and most expensive bills ever passed by Congress -- a measure that will affect what the government can and can't do for years to come. On a basic level, yesterday's vote may well have been a victory for Obama. He wanted the bill passed, and he got that. But we won't really know who won the stimulus fight until at least 2010, or 2012.
January 29, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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