Just in case you have concluded that Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, conservative talk show host Rush “I want him to fail” Limbaugh, and House “We Want Smaller Government And Less Government Spending (but we’ll make an exception when OUR guy is in power) Republicans reflect the only attitudes on the proposed economic stimulus bill, there is some good news today — besides it being Super Bowl Day:

A Democratic Senator and a Republican Senator have been working all weekend trying to remove sticking points from the House bill so that a compromise bill can be presented that’ll have better chance of being passed than the bill in its current form.

The Senators: Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Their goal: to remove all the little pet projects that even a head of cabbage knows don’t really qualify as stimulus and to get the bill centered on what most Americans had hoped would emerge:

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, oppose the proposal in its current form and want to slash what they call wasteful spending from the bill, so moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats will be more likely to vote for it.

The two senators, known as consensus builders, have spent the weekend scrubbing the bill of spending that does not narrowly target job and economic growth. Video Watch more on efforts for a bipartisan bill »

“Our goal is to have a bill that is both bipartisan and effective. That’s what we want. There’s no doubt that the American people don’t want to see partisan politics in this debate,” Collins said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Nelson told CNN on Sunday that several of the programs in the stimulus bill are unnecessary and won’t create jobs.

“I like parts of it,” he said, pointing to funding based on infrastructure, “But there’s an awful lot of spending in it that I think is questionable, marginally supportive and stimulative for jobs.”

Nelson said it’s important to fund things like programs to stop smoking, “but they ought to be part of something else, not part of a jobs stimulus bill.”

Collins is also critical of how the bill has seemingly been seen by some as a chance to get some long-sought goodies in terms of programs, rather than what it is supposed to be — a bill carefully targeted to give a shot in the arm to the economy:

Collins said Sunday that the bill has become “a Christmas tree where members are hanging their favorite program on it.”

“A lot of these programs are worthwhile. But we have to focus on what the impact is on the economy and whether or not the spending creates or saves jobs. That’s the question. That’s the test that needs to be passed,” she told CNN.

Asked if the bill represents Obama’s goal of achieving bipartisan consensus, Nelson noted that Obama “didn’t put the bill together.”

“Was that a mistake?” asked CNN’s John King.

“Well, I don’t know. It’s pretty hard… He has to deal with Congress. So Congress writes the legislation,” Nelson responded. “I think what he needs to do, and has been doing, is reach out to everybody to get their ideas. Then he has to decide whether he can support those ideas.”

Meanwhile, Democrats made noises over the weekend indicating that they are indeed open to compromise when the bill reaches the Senate:

The broad outlines of how the Obama administration’s near-trillion dollar stimulus package may change in the Senate began to become visible on Sunday, with Democratic senators indicating that they would be open to considering Republican amendments to the bill, particularly in the areas of housing and infrastructure spending.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said that Senate Democrats were interested in considering Republican proposals to do more to help the sputtering housing market, including instituting a $15,000 tax credit for all home buyers.

“One of the Republican proposals is to raise the $7,500 tax credit we give to new home buyers, raise it to up $15,000 and do it for all home buyers,” Senator Schumer said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “That’s something that we look favorably upon.”

Mr. Schumer, who is a member of the Finance Committee, also said he was also interested in passing legislation aimed at getting mortgages down to 4.5 percent, although he said he thought that might go in the next part of the bailout measure approved by Congress last year, not the stimulus package.

He added, “I think we will get real agreement on the housing part.”

Senators of both parties also said on Sunday that they expected a significant amount of additional money — about $20 billion to $30 billion — to go toward infrastructure spending on such things as roads and bridges. Senator Schumer also said he supported an additional $5 billion for mass transit spending.

As the New York Times piece notes, there still is significant disagreement between Democrats and Republicans.

It’s evident that within short order one of three things will happen:

1. The Senate will pass a stimulus bill that has some bipartisan support because it includes input in legislative form from both Democrats and Republicans. The House and Limbaugh can then be expected to oppose it (mildly or vehemently).

2. The Democrats will ram through a bill after failing to compromise with Republicans and the U.S. will be locked into the Vietnam-era derived baby boomer political polarization which has marked American politics for more than 20 years.

3. The bill will somehow fail. It doesn’t take a genius to predict the impact that would have on the already ailing stock market — and perhaps world markets.

Number one seems the most likely — keeping in mind that the House is set up to serve narrower interests, while Senators are more prone to look at the larger picture and politically they serve broader, more diverse constituencies. How many Senate GOPers are in states that either went for Obama or in which Obama has strong support?

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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