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President Obama gets his stimulus bill passed in the House -- but without one GOP vote. So who really won? Who was vindicated? What does this bode for the future?

Peter Wallsten writes in the Los Angeles Times about how Obama's first big legislative victory nevertheless didn't deliver the post-partisan era that he called for in his inauguration address.

Paul Kane writes in The Washington Post that a top White House adviser warned of the political fallout GOP lawmakers could face from constituents struggling in tough economic times.

Steven T. Dennis and Shira Toeplitz write in Roll Call (subscription required) about how congressional Republicans have placed a very large bet against Obama.

Here is Obama's statement after the vote.

Meanwhile, the question I think I'll be exploring for my main item today is this: How much is Obama abandoning economic populism in his quest not to upset Republicans and Wall Street? And is that serving him well? Your thoughts in comments would be welcome.


Here's some commentary on the stimulus vote:

Blogger Hilzoy writes: “There are good reasons to try for bipartisan support regardless of how likely you think you are to succeed.

“If you do succeed, then both parties have some ownership of the stimulus bill, neither will be as eager to politicize it, and it will be harder for either to use it to beat up the other. This is good. If you try hard, and publicly, to attract Republican support, but fail, then Republicans look like intransigent ideologues who would rather try to score political points than actually deal with the serious problems the country faces. You, by contrast, look reasonable: you tried to reach out, but your efforts were rejected.”

The New York Times editorial board writes: “The signature achievement of the $819 billion stimulus and recovery bill, passed on Wednesday by the House, is that it directs most of its resources where they would do the most good to stimulate the economy….

“President Obama and the lawmakers who wrote the bill are to be commended for not letting size distort the substance. Contrary to the claims of Republican opponents that the bill indiscriminately rains money down, the amounts and categories of spending have, for the most part, been calculated carefully and chosen well.”

E.J. Dionne Jr. writes in his Washington Post opinion column that the main battle over how to improve the economy is now taking place among Democrats. “One camp favors using the stimulus to focus on the needs of Americans of modest means,” while another “sees the bills as shorting investments for infrastructure: roads, bridges and particularly mass transit,” and “environmentalists have pushed for large investments in clean energy and conservation.”

What about the GOP? “Because of their philosophical leanings, most Republicans have chosen to make themselves irrelevant to the debate,” Dionne writes. “They prefer to insist on more tax cuts for the well-off and for business, ignoring the reality that all but the most ideological economists dismiss such measures as having limited value in boosting the economy.”

By Dan Froomkin  |  January 29, 2009; 9:45 AM ET
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"How much is Obama abandoning economic populism in his quest not to upset Republicans and Wall Street?"

Why does the moves a President make to improve his position seem to be seen in such a negative light. The President should be cheered for reaching out to the other side and they should know that a failure to respond will cost them very much. I think the republicans are going to break out the clown suits they wore when Lyndon Johnson was President. Their motto can be "What, me worry?"

But do not be too critical of the President for "abandoning economic populism .." It is not perfect and can be adjusted to meet current needs.

Posted by: gary4books | January 29, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad that Obama is reaching out the way he is, and I hope it pays off in better legislation down the line. I do think that the changes to the bill that were made to accommodate the Republicans have weakened the bill, and that's too bad. We'll see what comes out of the Senate.

The House Republicans clearly intend to obstruct at every turn (see how they even blocked a small change to the timing of the digital TV change, which Senate Republicans supported). This behavior is part of what brought about their huge defeats in the past two election cycles, and I do not think it will serve them well.

Posted by: jnfr | January 29, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I think that Obama knew how the vote may have gone down. His attempt to reach across the aisle may be more directed towards the American people and the mainstream media. Reaching across doesn't hurt him and it builds capital with the punditocracy in the daily media propoganda battle between the parties. We all know what sops mainstream media types are for 'bipartisanship'.

Posted by: veeve | January 29, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I find it absolutely amazing how Boenert (sp?) and other Rs keep saying that they have a better stimulous plan with more tax cuts and other mysterious components to get the economy moving. Are they completely insane?! Their way is largely responsible for the dire straits we're (the world, not just the US) is in....stunning!!! They've also begun to mention the burden that the deficit spending that's now necessary will put on future generations! I guess the profligate ways of the past 8 years get a bye. These people seem to have no shame.

Posted by: MemphisSlim | January 29, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Spending big amounts now will make future budgets less able to make needed changes to benefit the whole of the nation later. How is he building confidence to instill ordinary spending, and creating the environment that returns banks to what they do, loan money. Tell Wall Street and the financial industry what is wrong and seek legislation. Tell us who was criminal and go after them, that changes the perspective. Don't speak to an audience waiting in the freezing cold that they lived too well, he's not the one having endured the recession of the last year, shed the attitude.

Posted by: bwcolq | January 29, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

What I truly hope is happening here is that Obama is giving the GOP enough rope to hang itself. This is an opportunity to illuminate exactly how obstructive and counterproductive they've been the past 2 years. If the public sees this and overwhelmingly rejects them (further than they have twice already), it gives Obama and the Democrats more leeway in enacting their agenda.

Of course that's just wishful thinking on my part. The reality is that Democrats are too afraid to act like the Republicans did. Despite the fact that we need bold action to reverse course. Despite the fact that much of the public has and would support them.

No, I'm afraid the Democratic Party will continue to play it safe and thus will not be an effective counterweight to the GOP in my lifetime.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | January 29, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I think he gave the republicans the opportunity to be involved and relevant in crafting the bill and they decided to play politics instead. He gave them a chance to 'play nice' and they refused. The next step should be to strip all the republican favored elements out of the bill and just ram it through.

It's the "We can play nice if you want to play nice, and if you don't you get nothing," approach. AKA, the iron fist inside the velvet glove approach. They know how to play that game in Chicago.

Posted by: cfeher | January 29, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse asked John Podesta this question that is similar to the one Dan is contemplating. “Why is President Obama giving up so much to try to appease the conservatives?” He gave a thoughtful answer and at the end said, "But I would not confuse that with an idea that he’s compromising on his big goals of trying to deal with the very difficult economic circumstances we face and deal with the big challenges this country faces on energy, education, health care, and the other things."

I hope he is right.

Posted by: aevans11 | January 29, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Dan, for bringing these questions out in the open. I'm not sure why Obama is being a gentleman because the RepubliCONS certainly didn't do it in the previous 8 years. I think it is time we put the repubs out in the hall if they cannot behave in the classroom. All they are doing is holding things up and behaving like spoiled brats, Oh wait, they are spoiled brats. Go Obama, we are waiting to get this country back on track. Again, thanks Dan.

Posted by: sunnyshores | January 29, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I think the Democrats are "reaching out" so that they can spread the blame when their Keynesian cowplop fails.

Posted by: EnjoyEverySandwich | January 29, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama should tell the Republicans, now that they have chosen not to play nice, he should tell them to just go home.

Posted by: aevans11 | January 29, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"How much is Obama abandoning economic populism in his quest not to upset Republicans and Wall Street?"

Not much, it seems - but he did give the GOP plenty of respect during the process, at least compared to, er, "recent" presidents.

"And is that serving him well?"

We'll see. He's too smart to declare victory a-priori, and his towering strategic abilities eventually leave the defeated AND the victorious flat on their collective *ss wondering what happened. Time will tell, but I’d bet on Obama in the fourth quarter.

Posted by: mobedda | January 29, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I think a lot of the Beltway crowd heard Obama's promises to listen to good ideas from any quarter, and inviting everyone to help do the things we need to do, and instantly decided it meant traditional "bipartisanship," which in recent years has meant everyone comes together to do what the Republicans want. (Or more charitably, everything gets watered down until no one objects to it too much.) But that's not what he said.

He said he'd listen to *good* ideas from any quarter. And that everyone was welcome to get on board to *do the things we need to do*, not that we're going to throw away what we need to do just to get more people on board. It's moving beyond the poisonous political environment because the purpose is to do things that work, not to score points. The House GOP took the bait and proposed nothing but partisan sniping and discredited my-way-or-the-highway ideological "solutions."

The train's leaving the station. How best to get where we're going is open for discussion. Where we're going isn't. We're going to fix the things that have been broken for a long time; get on board or get left behind.

Posted by: jimeh | January 29, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I question the premise of your question "abandoning economic populism in his quest not to upset Republicans and Wall Street".

In our current adversarial 1.5 party system where negotiating and bargaining are allegedly how compromise is achieved to find solutions that serve the needs of our country, one should expect trade-offs that give both sides something to support.

It is hard to believe that is possible when one side is more interested in playing verbal volleyball games where the score of the vote - as demonstrated by the 0/188 tally - is more important than trying to find reasonable accommodation and actually working together for the benefit of the country, rather than unproductive self-serving spiteful opposition.

I understand the desire to change the way things have been done and I am yet hopeful that will happen. It takes 2 partners to dance but if only one of you is willing, it's more like wrestling.

Posted by: m1ke_h | January 29, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I doubt President Obama had any illusions about the level of support he would have for the stimulus bill in the House.
The point was showing his eagerness to work for bipartisanship. His efforts make the Republicans look like spoilsports and poor losers.
If he continues in this vein, showing sincere regret over the times (many to come, I'm sure) when the Republicans slap away the hand of agreement, he'll look like a principled man dealing in good faith and the Republicans will look like... well, what they are.

Posted by: dbitt | January 29, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Obama is like a master wine-maker combining superior intellect, deep intuition, a scholar's grasp of history, and sharp elbows to achieve his goals. He is looking far beyond what the house, the senate, and the media see. When he entered the presidential race, I saw a microcosm of what is hapening now when the media could not understand the language he was using. His directness and instincts were far ahead of what we had seen in generations.

My take on his current actions is that they are a subtle blend that includes massaging the edges of the legislature to plant the seeds that will flower, eventually, in the minds of his opposition.
He is not experimenting. A politician like this only emerges, like an Einstein, once in a great while.

PS: I LOVE your writing. Your's is the only blog I MUST check every day.

Posted by: iamithink | January 29, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

In my view, yesterday, not election day, not last Tuesday, marked the beginning of the end of the Republican Party that emerged from the shadow of Watergate.

Last night's vote established the President as the leader he is. He went to Them, talked to Them, made concessions to Them, and still They would not give him one lousy vote. The American people can see this for what it is, and there are no gray areas to confuse the issue.

If the House Republicans want to stay on this track, which their philosophies require, they do, their influence will fall to zero, since their irrelevancy is becoming quite apparent.

Posted by: TedYazTrot | January 29, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans have slit their own throats this time. This was the wrong occasion to be caught giving a party line vote. In a year's time, when conditions are even worse than they are now, the proportions of the disaster will be more obvious. With much of the public already out on the street, "our way or the highway" isn't going to play in Peoria.

Posted by: fzdybel | January 29, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Let's face it. Obama has to make the attempt to work with Republicans. And he'll have plenty of evidence down the line to say, see, I tried. they will look like the same old partisan hacks that just got booted out.

They have an opportunity to be useful, fruitful arbitors. If they waste it by being endlessly negative, they will be handing Obama a guaranteed re-election and the GOP a spot in the wilderness for years to come.

Posted by: LarryL1 | January 29, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

"In a year's time, when conditions are even worse than they are now, the proportions of the disaster will be more obvious."

Let's not fool ourselves just because there's a new President. In a year's time when conditions are worse the GOP will launch a coordinated campaign to blame the Democratic elements of the bailout package. The media will dutifully transcribe and incorporate these allegations as conventional wisdom and the Dems - with the deck completely in their favor - will be playing defense inside a GOP frame once again.

I don't mean to be so pessimistic but I believe it's also realistic. Reaching out to the right will only get your hand cut off. They've created a media monster that they're now beholden to. They couldn't play nice with Democrats even if they wanted to. Rush "I hope Obama fails" Limbaugh and Hannity and the rest of them would destroy anyone who would dare cooperate with the traitorous unamerican.

No, I'm afraid the only viable solution at this particular point in history is to entirely shut out the GOP - the ones who put us in this mess - and get to business fixing things. They will complain, but they would have anyway. So IGNORE THEM.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | January 29, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"In a year's time when conditions are worse the GOP will launch a coordinated campaign to blame the Democratic elements of the bailout package."

You don't need to wait, they're launching one right now. They'll launch one every week between now and then. But they've got a problem: after thirty years of slow descent into economic chaos, their old policies have no credibility and they have no new policies to put in their place. "Let's stop worrying about job creation and let's get back to greasing Wall St." isn't going to hack it. A year from now the public is going to shrug its shoulders and say "OK, $830 B wasn't enough, so let's double it and this time forget the tax cuts."

Posted by: fzdybel | January 29, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I agree with BigTunaTim that reaching out has its risks. I disagree with him that Obama should shut out the GOP. Obama finished his first week by showing he would include the GOP and big business in his government. I did not expect them to roll over and turn into Democrats in the first week. Obama needs time to change minds and hearts and he needs to work all sectors aggressively to do so. Sure, the end result may still be a wall of hatred from the right. But another likely result is that more of those "46%" that voted McCain will see the GOP partisan platform as the failure it is and give Obama a second term to drive the nation (and the world) forward. Keep doing what your doing Obama but make sure you include everyone, R, D, I alike.

Posted by: mraymond10 | January 29, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Reaching out to the Republicans is good. But if, after doing that, they still vote 100% no, the next time listen to them and then tell them their last vote buys them no power to influence he second program; but that if some of them come on board, they will get not only listening but some input to the third bill. If they still vote 100% no, then no input to the fourth, and so on. It's called behavioral training.

Posted by: dschwa2222 | January 29, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

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