Stimulus Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:58 PM ET, 02/18/2009

Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post: "Warning that its passage into law 'does not mark the end of our economic troubles,' President Obama on Tuesday signed the $787 billion stimulus package, a measure he called the most sweeping financial legislation enacted in the nation's history.

"Obama used the occasion to step away from Washington, choosing not to sign the landmark bill in a White House ceremony surrounded by proud congressional supporters. Instead, he ventured 1,700 miles away from the capital and its partisan wrangling to the sunny atrium of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where he called the legislation crucial to injecting new life into the nation's moribund economy....

"'What people see inside the Beltway is the nature of compromise and incrementalism that is part of the legislative process,' said Stephen J. Farnsworth, a communications professor at George Mason University who has studied how presidents market themselves. 'Outside, they notice that Obama wanted a major stimulus package and was able to deliver one within a month of becoming president.'"

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Adam Nagourney write in the New York Times: "President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill into law on Tuesday as leaders of both parties moved to position themselves for a political battle over who was responsible for the economy's problems and whether the legislation was the solution."

Even as Obama signed the bill, "Republicans were denouncing it as a waste of money. They asserted that it would not turn the economy around and that they were unified in 'disagreement with Congressional Democrats and President Obama,' in the words of Michael Steele, the Republican national chairman....

"Republican aides said they would seize on every instance of potential abuse as a way of stirring public doubt about the measure....

"Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama's chief of staff, said Republicans had undercut themselves with the vote.

"'This is the party that just decided to vote against tax cuts,' Mr. Emanuel said. 'You have a lot of members on the line who voted against tax cuts, and they also voted against important measures on health care and energy, and we know both areas are highly valued by the American public. If you are the party of action versus the party of inaction, the party of action wins.'"

Peter Baker writes in the New York Times: "President Obama blasted through all sorts of speed records pushing a $787 billion economic plan through Congress, arguing it was too urgent to wait. But even after signing it into law Tuesday, he faces another problem: virtually no one is in place at his cabinet departments to actually spend a lot of the money."

But White House aides told Baker "they were determined to make sure personnel gaps did not slow spending. Peter R. Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, plans to send all agencies a 50-page memorandum on Wednesday detailing how the money should be used, another official said."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company