Lawmakers Continue to Dig In on Stimulus

Posted February 8, 2009 at 11:44am

The debate over the economic stimulus bill moved from the Capitol to the talk shows once again on Sunday as Democrats and Republicans held their rhetorical lines and illustrated the continued partisan deadlock that the White House may have to break this week. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) maintained that the stimulus bill spent too much on projects that would not create jobs. “You don’t want to spend these precious taxpayer dollars in the wrong way, so yes, speed is important but the speed is relative,” said Ensign, the Senate GOP Policy Committee chairman. “We only got the bill at 11 o’clock last night – you don’t get a do-over with a trillion dollars,” he added. Ensign said Senate Republicans would attempt to stop the bill, but that it will likely pass when it goes to a final vote on Tuesday. Senators crafted a deal Friday night that appears to have the support of at least 60 lawmakers, enough to overcome a GOP-led filibuster. Pence, the House GOP Conference chairman, argued that the support for the stimulus package has continued to erode as more voters discover what is included in it. “With all due respect to the president of the United States, the ideas, the worn-out ideas, that the American people are tired of is runaway federal spending, and I believe the American people rejected that under Republican control and I believe that’s the reason why support for this stimulus bill is collapsing by the hour,” Pence said. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of the architects of the $827 billion Senate compromise, said several of the programs Senators stripped were better fit for an omnibus appropriations bill. But McCaskill also stressed that 90 percent of the Senate package mirrors the House-passed measure. Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said he was cautiously optimistic that several Senate Republicans would join Democrats in supporting his chamber’s bill. The House version received no Republican votes. “So much of this is eye of the beholder,” Conrad said. “I think it’s possible, but I think most of them have made a political calculation that it is better to be in opposition.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) contended that even though several Republican Senators were included in the group that hammered out the Senate compromise, it was not a truly bipartisan effort. “This agreement is not bipartisan. I’ve been in bipartisan agreements – many,” McCain said. “This is three Republican Senators. Every Republican Congressman voted against it in the House, plus 11 Democrats and all but three Republicans stayed together. That’s not bipartisanship. That’s simply picking off three Senators.” McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, likened the way the bill was initially crafted by Democrats to how the then-Republican-led Congress put bills together under President George W. Bush. “That’s the way we did business, but I thought we were going to have change,” McCain said.