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Price Rises on Bipartisanship

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And Burr said Republicans aren’t necessarily trying to have a partisan throwdown over the economy.

“When we [criticize] the size of this, this is not just about egregious spending. This is about an obligation to the future,” Burr said. “How do you fund everything else?”

As Obama’s one-time presidential rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), pointed out on the Senate floor Friday, “these numbers are staggering.”

The current national debt stands at $10.7 trillion. The federal deficit is at $1.2 trillion. With the stimulus last week and a financial industry bailout last fall, Congress has already spent $1.5 trillion to rescue the economy, and the Treasury Department has been floating another Wall Street aid package that could cost an additional $1.5 trillion in public and private funds.

Plus, the fiscal 2010 appropriations bills will likely come in at or around $1 trillion.

The more than $400 billion omnibus that the House may take up next week and an expected $80 billion Iraq and Afghanistan war supplemental seem like trifles in comparison.

Part of the problem is that both parties — but particularly Republicans — are gun-shy after getting pummeled during the 2008 elections for their support of the Bush administration’s $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan, which both sides said was mismanaged and weak.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who supported the bailout, said the GOP skittishness after the financial industry rescue, coupled with Democrats’ push to spend lavishly in the stimulus on questionable programs, could hamper bipartisanship going forward.

“What we’ve done is we’ve made it more difficult to solve the fundamental problem of the economy by having a stimulus package passed in such a partisan way that soured the public,” Graham said. “So a new request to fix housing and banking ... it’s going to be a steeper hill to climb.”

He added that for many Members, politically, “It’s just easier to say ‘no.’”

Still, Graham and other Republicans indicated there is hope for Democrats, particularly when it comes to another financial industry bailout plan.

“Here’s my advice to Republicans who felt shut out and disappointed [by the stimulus]: ‘We still have to fix housing and banking,’” Graham said. He added, “My message to the administration is count me in for finding a solution to housing and banking, because we have to.”

A surprising GOP ally for the administration could be Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), who removed himself from consideration to be Obama’s Commerce secretary last week.

Though he said his policy disagreements with the president led him to withdraw his nomination, Gregg explicitly noted that he would be in Obama’s corner on many economic issues.

“I do believe genuinely that I can be even more effective for this presidency in the Senate than, maybe, even in his Cabinet. I still think I have a fair amount of influence in getting things done around here,” Gregg said.

He added, “And there are going to be a lot of issues on which I’m going to want to jump in on and carry his water here in the Senate, and hopefully be successful.”

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