8 a.m. ET: Let the betting begin -- how many votes will the stimulus package get on the House floor today? And how many minds did President Obama actually change yesterday?
As The Fix points out, Obama is riding a wave of popularity right now and he has made clear that passing the stimulus -- not just passing it, but doing so with Republican votes -- is his first and biggest priority. In fact, Obama came into office with the highest approval rating of any new president since John F. Kennedy.
But it's also true that many Republicans have genuine philosophical problems with the stimulus package, as its price tag now approaches $900 billion, believing that it spends too much and cuts taxes too little. In the view of some conservatives, the best thing government can do right now is nothing. And from a purely strategic perspective, as Josh Marshall observes, most Republicans have decided that opposing the measure is their best political move. If the stimulus turns out to be a success, the victory will accrue to Obama with relatively little benefit for the GOP for having supported it. Republicans' best chance for a boost is to oppose the bill and then have it become unpopular and unsuccessful at turning the economy around. Put more simply, the stimulus is going to become law no matter what Republicans do, so why not take a stand? Their electoral situation can't get much worse than it already is, and it might just get better.
Knowing all that, most indications this morning are that Obama won't get more than a few GOP votes in favor of the stimulus package. Despite their appreciation for Obama's outreach yesterday, it looks as though few Republicans will change their mind, as they consider backing the bill to be a leap too far. Best quote on that subject: "It’s like asking a lion to be a vegetarian."
It's not just Republicans who have to consider the political implications of voting for or against the stimulus. Mark Preston notes that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has made a notably early ad buy in Nevada, going on TV to slam "super spending partisan Harry Reid" for backing the financial bailout and now pushing "a trillion more dollars in new spending." The ad is running in Reno, the more conservative of the state's two major markets, where voters might be more receptive to the anti-spending argument.
But do most voters care as much about spending and the deficit right now as they do about layoffs and turning the economy around? That's the question members of Congress -- including a few skeptical Democrats -- face today as they calculate both what they think is best for the country and what they think is best for saving their own skins.
January 28, 2009; 7:40 AM ET
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