February 10, 2009


Pelosi's Indefensible Bill: For Barack Obama, a cautionary tale of audacity. (William McGurn, 2/10/09, WSJ)

And like President Obama, Speaker Pelosi heralded her election as "a call to change." In her acceptance speech, she put it this way: "We have made history," she said. "Now let us make progress for our new America."

That was January 2007. Before the year was out, her approval ratings would be lower than George W. Bush's.

Under her leadership, Congress failed to pass a single appropriations bill until early November. Congress also failed to override the president's veto on what Democrats thought would be an easy win for an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Most significant of all, Congress failed to force Mr. Bush to begin what Democrats had said was their real goal: a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

The way Mrs. Pelosi handled Iraq has some interesting parallels to the way she is now handling the stimulus. In the early months of her speakership, the Democratic Congress faced its first test on Iraq in the form of a war funding bill. Mrs. Pelosi's response? To lard it up with billions in unrelated domestic spending -- including a now infamous provision that would have spent $74 million for peanut storage.

In many ways, Mrs. Pelosi's decisions would make it easier for Mr. Bush to get his war funding through her Congress. While the president argued for supporting our troops, Democrats were forced to defend pork. And though Mr. Bush was ultimately forced to accept more domestic spending than he would have preferred, on the central issue -- funding for the war -- he got what he wanted without agreeing to a timetable for withdrawal.

Just as she did with war funding, Mrs. Pelosi is once again putting her fellow Democrats -- Mr. Obama included -- in the position of defending the indefensible. And she let it all ride on a game of chicken. Her bet has been that a Republican minority would sooner or later cry "uncle" on a laundry list of pet Democratic spending projects rather than risk being painted as holding up vital economic legislation.

But a funny thing happened: House Republicans called her bluff. The result has been more attention to the content of the legislation passing through Congress. And as the focus on content has increased, the American people have grown more skeptical.

Latest Version of Stimulus Leaves Little Room for Negotiation (Richard Rubin, 2/10/09, CQ)
[H]ouse and Senate versions of the bill will have to be reconciled, which won’t be easy.

Lawmakers will have to resolve major differences over the alternative minimum tax, state aid, education funding and the allocation of money for Medicaid. They also must work through a series of smaller issues, from restrictions on highway beautification spending to the percentage of a college tuition tax credit that should be refundable.

A Senate filibuster can be overcome with 60 votes, so the negotiators who work out the final version of the bill have to craft it to avoid losing the Republicans who were with them on Monday: Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Specter already laid down a stringent marker for what it will take to keep his vote.

“My support for the conference report on the stimulus package will require that the Senate compromise bill come back virtually intact including, but not limited to, overall spending, the current ratio of tax cuts to spending, and the $110 billion in cuts,” Specter said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 10, 2009 3:20 PM
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