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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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • AustinRoth

    OK, now that these two Senators are acknowledging the criticism that many in Washington, along with a lot of economists, and I and others on this board have made, can we all stop collectively being told that we were being un-American, hate Americans, are obstructionist, etc.?

    Elrod – to a side-bar we had, maybe there is hope that the stupid stuff that doesn’t belong can be taken out, without new bloat being added. That would be very, very nice, and perhaps an example to Pelosi, et. al., of what actual bi-partisanship looks like.

    And before I am even attacked, I am very aware that the Republicans in the recent past have shown no example of it either. But if indeed this is supposed to be the New Way of Washington that Obama promised, then just repeating the mistakes but from the other direction is not going to be a solution.

  • DLS


    “Rush “I want him to fail’ Limbaugh”

    This is old news, and reaction from the very first moment to what he said has been ridiculously excessive and childish.

    * * *

    “maybe there is hope that the stupid stuff that doesn’t belong can be taken out, without new bloat being added”

    The stupid stuff merits no defense — defense is degenerate. The problem indeed with the Senate and then back to the childish “inmates in charge of asylum” House is adding more bloat.

    * * *

    Obama has slipped — acting as if the lousy House bill is his (his clout cannot carry it among better people) and then making those freakish pre-1960s union-related remarks recently. Tom Health-Care Daschle’s tax troubles are only more problems. Now we get to see how he handles events other than blind worship that even made Saturday Night Live’s producers take note. (“Question, sir. What is it that makes you so great?”)

  • DLS

    Austin Roth: If there were honesty, it would be that these are two Democratic Senators.

    For that’s what Colllins, Snowe, Specter, etc.,actually are and honestly would be if honesty in partisan affiliation were the order of the day.

    What I had to refrain from laughing about earlier was that (okay, could be “upper House” conceit at work here) someone like Susan Collins, who is liberal and should be a Democrat, acknowledges there is itdiotic excess in the House bill and that it needs pruning and scrubbing.

    [sigh] At least they found someone currently with an R (even if a phony R) on the name tag to try to clean up this idiocy.

    It was a really stupid thing for Obama to try to associate himself and his new office with this House bill. Hopefully he’ll learn. I suspect he will. (Same for that stupid dinosaur union stuff even if he helps later with “card check.”)

  • PeopleWatching

    Well-written article. In reference to your comment about “Vietnam-era derived baby boomers”, there was a brilliant op-ed in USA TODAY this week that deal with these polarizing left-right Boomer battles in the context of the generational torch recently being passed from the Boomers to Generation Jones (the heretore lost generation between the Boomers and Generation X)…http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20090127/column27_st.art.htm I’m part of Generation Jones, and have been thrilled to see it getting so much big-time national media attention recently.

  • elrod

    I agree with you and I agree with Collins and Nelson in principle.

    I still want to see what they determine to be “non-stimulus” as that decision will be political as much as it is “objective.” Still, it’s the right idea and Alice Rivlin called for it before.

  • Hope they are sincere in doing what is right. The stimulous contained too much special interest, etc, but tax cuts are not the answer. From what I have seen it has no benefits for the people who no longer have a job and whose unemployment has run out. There are many, many people really hurting and is not time for politics as usual.
    The stimulous package must be just that and every penny given to the states, education system etc must have restrictions, stipulations and guidelines as to how the money is spent. The states, which are lobby controlled are just drooling to get their hands on this money and we must make sure every penny is spent wisely.

  • Collins is a Repub in all the the places that count for Mainers, mostly guns and taxes. I have disagreed with her positions in the past, but I’m really excited about this.

    I feel proud that a state that is generally unimportant has two powerful and influential senators. Beside my Mainely Pride, I hope that Collins and Nelson really can get all the wasteful spending cut and bring the focus back to job creation and strengthening our industry where it should be.