And even if Boehner wanted to cut a deal, its not clear how much room to negotiate he has from his partys conservative wing.
The conservative Club for Growth, whose political action committee has backed primary challengers against moderate GOP Members in past cycles, warned that it would not consider any Member who voted for the stimulus package for its annual Defender of Economic Freedom award. The club and its partner organizations raised and bundled more than $10 million to federal candidates in 2008.
If you vote for a $1 trillion stimulus package and the economy is in the gutter, voters are going to look around and say, What did you just do with all of our tax dollars? said Nachama Soloveichik, a spokeswoman for the club.
But Brad Woodhouse, president of the liberal group Americans United For Change, argued the vote would have negative ramifications for Republicans.
In turning their backs on the American people during a time of historic economic crisis to score cheap political points, Republicans in the House at worst may have committed political suicide and best proved their irrelevance to the process, he said.
The Republican campaign machine has meanwhile whipped up the attacks on targeted Democrats over minor provisions in the bill that nonetheless have garnered big headlines.
The National Republican Congressional Committee used a now-eliminated contraceptives line item to go after Democrats in socially conservative districts, following up with an attack targeting Members in states where the community organizing group ACORN is under investigation another knock at a funding measure in the bill. The NRCC finished its round of firings Wednesday by hitting freshmen in the Democratic Caucus for the sexually transmitted disease prevention funds tacked onto the bill.
Democrats are going to have a hard time explaining to their constituents why they essentially voted to flush hundreds of billions of dollars away on wasteful pet projects that will do nothing to stimulate the economy, said Ken Spain, NRCC communications director. Apparently when [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi yanks the leash, the so-called Blue Dogs roll over and play dead.
More than a few Democrats in conservative districts voted against a motion to consider the stimulus bill, including Reps. Christopher Carney (Pa.), Travis Childers (Miss.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Zack Space (Ohio) and Heath Shuler (N.C.) all of whom have had competitive races recently and could have tough re-election challenges in 2010.
One Democratic consultant who works with Congressional candidates acknowledged that voting for the stimulus could be politically dangerous for some Members in the short term because the bill might not prove effective for some time.
I can understand why Democratic Members in some parts of the county in more conservative districts would be more reluctant to support [the stimulus bill] based on the short-term effects on the economy, which are unclear, said the consultant.
But the consultant recalled that Republicans unsuccessfully targeted Democrats on social issues in the South in the previous cycle only to realize that economy was paramount to all other issues.
For his part, Boehner argued the Democratic plan wouldnt work, but fast-acting tax cuts would.