Some are already pointing out “pork” and “pet projects” we can expect to see in Barack Obama’s $1 Trillion stimulus bill like a dog park in Hercules, Calif.; a bike path in San Diego; and a $1.5-million push to curb prostitution in Dayton, Ohio….
Democrats want to have a bill ready and waiting for him. But with Republicans seeking more time for public hearings and to purge special-interest projects, his plans for bipartisanship will be tested.
Reporting from Washington — President-elect Barack Obama’s call for speedy adoption of a massive spending plan to “jolt” the economy will prove an early test of two major promises: that he will work in a bipartisan style with a skeptical Republican Party, and that he will purge the federal budget of wasteful projects.
Even conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill predict that, in the end, a substantial stimulus package will pass. Job losses and a deepening recession demand a quick infusion of money, they say.
But Republicans in the Senate, even with their ranks diminished, still possess leverage to tailor a package that fits certain specifications. They want public hearings on the stimulus, even if it thwarts Democratic ambitions to present the bill to Obama for his signature when he is sworn in to office Jan. 20. And they insist that the bill be scrubbed of projects that, in their view, are aimed more at appeasing interest groups than creating jobs.
When the new Congress convenes on Jan. 6, Senate Democrats will still lack the 60-vote majority needed to stave off GOP delay tactics — a reality that gives Republicans some confidence that they can win concessions.
Obama has identified the stimulus package as an urgent priority. His economic advisors are considering a package of no less than $600 billion and potentially as much as $1 trillion over two years, according to the transition office.
The fate of the bill could shape the course of Obama’s presidency. If it works, it could help lift the economy out of recession, giving him the space to enact his ambitious energy, education and healthcare plans.
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