With the rollout comes the blowback. And with them both comes the presidential-sized challenge for the not-yet president.
It turns out you don’t have to look very hard to find the fault lines in President-elect Barack Obama’s bid for a massive stimulus bill. He tried to scare Congress into acting quickly on Thursday — and more pressure is coming Friday and beyond — but there’s still no measure to act on, or even the outlines of one.
Now there may not be one for a while. For the moment, at least, he’s got more to worry about on his left than on his right. (And if leaving Howard Dean feeling snubbed helps sell the package — please explain how that one works.)
Democrats in Congress, it turns out, have gotten used to having their own ideas. With more questions being raised about billions and bailouts on Friday, it’s only going to get harder for the Obama sales team.
“President-elect Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan ran into crossfire from his own party in Congress on Thursday, suggesting that quick passage of spending programs and tax cuts could require more time and negotiation than Democrats once hoped,” Peter Baker and David M. Herszenhorn report in The New York Times. “Further complicating the picture, Democratic senators said Thursday that they would try to attach legislation to the package that would allow bankruptcy courts to modify home loans, a move Republicans have opposed.”
By Rick Klein
“But the broad support he has enjoyed so far for the basic concept is now being tested as the specifics become clearer,” Baker and Herszenhorn write.
“It was a remarkable speech for someone who isn’t president yet and hasn’t revealed the details of his economic rescue plan,” ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. “The most pointed criticism of the plan came from Democrats who objected to Obama’s plans to cut taxes for businesses and for middle class families.”
This is not about losing a vote. It’s about losing a weapon. The stimulus package is Obama’s first big legislative push, the one he absolutely cannot afford not to win, on his terms. Winning in style (think 75 or 80 Senate votes) enhances his power when the hard stuff begins.
Recall that congressional Democrats had a two-year head-start on Obama in taking control of Washington. In that time, they’ve learned to like pursuing paths of their own — and they remember well what they don’t like.
“The Democrat-led Congress is eager to assert some control and is beginning to chafe at the president-elect’s demand for quick approval of a stimulus program pegged at $800 billion and likely to grow,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman and Greg Hitt report. “The fight could begin to define how Mr. Obama deals with his former senate colleagues. During much of his eight years in office, Mr. Bush dominated Congress in the battle to set the agenda. Mr. Obama will face demand among lawmakers for a more assertive role.”
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos sees three main questions defining the debate on Capitol Hill: “1) Can the money get out very, very quickly? 2) Will the spending programs really be temporary? 3) Can this package be targeted to create the most jobs per dollar to get the most bang for the buck?”
Was leading with tax cuts the right call? It’s muted the GOP opposition, but hardly made Republicans enthusiastic. And it’s given some Democrats what’s looking like a rallying point.
This is what happens when you talk about a tax cut bigger than President Bush’s: “Democrats on Capitol Hill questioned the lengths to which Barack Obama was seeking to win over Republicans,” The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports. Said House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank: “I have some difference because I think they may be doing too much tax-cutting and not enough direct spending from the standpoint of immediate job creation.”
“Barack Obama got a lesson Thursday from his old Senate Democratic colleagues: a little more time for takeoff could avoid a crash landing of his economic recovery plan,” Politico’s David Rogers reports. “At a closed-door party meeting in the Capitol, top political and economic advisers to the president elect were met with questions and pressure for adjustments to the $775 billion plan if lawmakers are to meet Obama’s schedule of completing passage by mid-February.”