Archive for the ‘Susan Collins’ Category

Stimulus: Calls To Senate 8:1 Against; Political, Economic Toll Looms

February 9, 2009

Barack Obama is in trouble.  His first legislative initiative as president was meant to solve a catastrophe.  But the phone lines at the Senate House Office Buildings are heating up with voters saying “no.”

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said on Monday the calls to his office were 8:1 against the stimulus.  Other Senate offices report similar call ratios.

Polls show that 50% or more of the voters are against this stimulus.

The stimulus will probably still pass.  After all, Democrats control the House and the Senate.  But their will be consequences of the stimulus: political and economic.

Barack Obama is bleeding politically.  He’ll need some recovery time.

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has been willing to go with the Democrats on the stimulus.  He faces reelection in his state during the next go round; and his Republican base is not overjoyed with this stimulus.

Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, both Republicans, have also sided with the Democratic Party on the stimulus.  They probably have to help the Democrats (or think they have to)  given the unemployment in their state.

But this stimulus is going to hurt the nation, politically and economically.  And few Demcrats or White House spokesmen have been able to articulate the benefits enough to turn around the negative feelings among voters….

Related:
U.S. Taxpayers Risk $9.7 Trillion on Bailouts as Senate Votes

Stimulus: Obama house parties can’t stimulate needed support

Stimulus will lead to ‘disaster,’ Republican warns

http://michellemalkin.com/200
9/02/09/as-maine-goes/

Arlen Specter
Senator Specter

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Jonathan Martin, Manu Raju 
 Politico

In the gauzy days of bipartisan good feeling before his Inauguration, there was talk of President Barack Obama linking arms with Republicans to pass a massive stimulus bill, with a big bipartisan Senate majority as proof the parties could come together in a time of national distress. 

So much for that. 

Now Obama and the Democrats are poised to push through an $827 billion package Tuesday with as few as three Republican votes in the Senate, after notching zero on the House side. 

The risks for Obama are considerable. He and the Democrats will have no one else to blame if the package fails to boost the economy. Obama himself has said his first term can be judged on whether it succeeds, whether it creates or saves the 3 million to 4 million jobs he promises. 

And if the economy fails to show marked signs of improvement — a possibility indeed — Republicans will have a megabillion-dollar “I told you so” in their pockets, just in time for the 2010 midterm elections and Obama’s own reelection bid in 2012. 

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the fallout from a Democrat-only bill will be “squarely in the president and the Democratic leadership’s lap.” 

If Obama signs a stimulus bill that has been approved on a party-line vote, “which I have no confidence will work, then I think this is very serious blow early on to his presidency,” Cornyn said. 

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) acknowledged the lack of bipartisan support “weakens the bill” and said voters should try to withhold judgment until a final product emerges from conference. But he warned that the GOP would suffer from withholding support. 

Yet Republicans are gambling themselves — and perhaps with even higher stakes. 

Still seeking a way forward from their Election Day thumping, they risk appearing out of touch as the unemployment rate jumps to 7.6 percent and a popular new president is appearing to seek their support to address the crisis. By turning their backs on him and opposing action at a time when millions of Americans are in need, they may invite a “party of no” bull’s-eye on their backs. 

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/2009
0209/pl_politico/18576

http://conservativemeanderings.wordp
ress.com/2009/02/09/lets-get-wasted/

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Stimulus: Senate Deal Announced; $827 Billion

February 7, 2009

With job losses soaring nationwide, Senate Democrats reached agreement with a small group of Republicans Friday night on an economic stimulus measure at the heart of President Barack Obama‘s plan for combatting the worst recession in decades.

The American people want us to work together. They don’t want to see us dividing along partisan lines on the most serious crisis confronting our country,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of three Republican moderates who broke ranks and pledged their votes for the bill.

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

Democratic leaders expressed confidence that the concessions they had made to Republicans and moderate Democrats to trim the measure had cleared the way for its passage. No final vote was expected before Monday.

Officials put the cost of the bill at $827 billion, including Obama’s signature tax cut of up to $1,000 for working couples, even if they earn too little to pay income taxes. Also included are breaks for homebuyers and people buying new cars. Much of the new spending would be for victims of the recession, in the form of unemployment compensation, health care and food stamps.

Republican critics complained that whatever the cost, billions were ticketed for programs that would not create jobs.

In a key reduction from the bill that reached the Senate floor earlier in the week, $40 billion would be cut from a “fiscal stabilization fund” for state governments’ education costs, though $14 billion to boost the maximum for college Pell Grants by $400 to $5,250 would be preserved, as would aid to local school districts for the No Child Left Behind law and special education.

A plan to help the unemployed purchase health insurance would be reduced to a 50 percent subsidy instead of two-thirds.

The agreement capped a tense day of backroom negotiations in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, sought to attract the support of enough Republicans to give the measure the needed 60-vote majority. Democrats hold a 58-41 majority in the Senate, including two independents.

Uncertain of the outcome of the talks, Democrats called Sen. Edward M. Kennedy back to Washington in case his vote was needed. The Massachusetts senator, battling brain cancer, has been in Florida in recent days and has not been in the Capitol since suffering a seizure on Inauguration Day more than two weeks ago.

In addition to Collins, Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia Snowe of Maine pledged to vote for the legislation.

Whatever the price tag, the compromise marked a victory for the new president, who has veered between calls for bipartisanship and increasingly strong criticism of Republicans in recent days. And it indicated that Democratic leaders remain on track to deliver a bill to the White House by the end of next week.

Late Friday night, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “On the day when we learned 3.6 million people have lost their jobs since this recession began, we are pleased the process is moving forward and we are closer to getting Americans a plan to create millions of jobs and get people back to work.”

Obama said earlier in the day that further delay would be “inexcusable and irresponsible” given Friday’s worst monthly unemployment report in a generation — 598,000 jobs lost in January and the national unemployment rate rising to 7.6 percent. And late Friday, federal regulators announced the closures of three banks, First Bank Financial Services in Georgia and Alliance Bank and County Bank in California, raising to nine the number of bank failures this year.

“The world is waiting to see what we’re going to do in the next 24 hours,” said Reid who has spent much of the week trying to balance demands among moderates in both parties against pressure for a larger bill from liberals in his own rank and file.

By midday, the majority leader had spoken once with Obama by phone and five times with Emanuel. He met with Collins and Specter as well as Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Nebraska Democrat who had long advocated cuts in the House-passed bill.

Later, Nelson declared on the Senate floor, “We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows.” He said the compromise included $350 billion in tax cuts that would reach 95 percent of all Americans.

One Republican-proposed document that circulated earlier called for cuts of $60 billion from money Democrats want to send to the states. That money is targeted to avoid budget cuts for schools as well as law enforcement and other programs.

Talk of cuts in proposed education funds triggered a counterattack from advocates of school spending as well as unhappiness among Democrats.

One, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, told reporters he and others hoped that some of the funds on the chopping block would be restored next week when negotiations open on a House-Senate compromise.

At its core, the legislation is designed to ease the worst economic recession in generations, and combines hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending with tax cuts. Much of the money would go for victims of the recession in the form of food stamps, unemployment compensation and health care. There are funds, as well, for construction of highways and bridges.

But the administration also decided to use the bill to make a down payment on key domestic initiatives, including creation of a new health technology industry and so-called green jobs designed to make the country less dependent on imported oil.

And Democrats in Congress decided to add additional huge sums for the states struggling with the recession, as well as billions more for favored programs such as parks, the repair of monuments in federal cemeteries, health and science research and more.

With Obama enjoying post-inauguration support in the polls and the economy shrinking, Democratic leaders in Congress have confidently predicted they would have a bill to the president’s desk by mid-February.

But Republicans, freed of the need to defend former President George W. Bush‘s policies, have pivoted quickly to criticize the bill for its size and what they consider wasteful spending.

The entire Republican rank and file voted against the measure in the House, effectively prodding senators to take up the same cause.

In the intervening days, Republicans have appeared to catch the administration and its allies off-guard, holding up relatively small items for ridicule and routinely seizing on comments from Democrats critical of the House-passed bill.

At the same time, they have stressed a desire to help the economy but have said they prefer tax cuts and spending that would have a more immediate impact on job creation.

Privately, Democrats in Congress have been critical of Obama and his aides for failing to counter the Republicans more effectively. In recent days, the president has sharpened his rhetoric against unnamed critics of the bill whom he accused of trying to re-establish the “failed policies” of the past eight years.

Despite the struggle, some Republicans seemed to sense the White House would ultimately prevail, and sought political mileage.

Obama “could have had a very, very impressive victory early on,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who heads the Senate Republican campaign committee. “But this is not turning out to be an impressive victory. it is turning out to be a little bit of a black eye.”

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Erica Werner, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Liz Sidoti and Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

Obama stresses urgency of now for stimulus bill

February 5, 2009

Senate moderates from both political parties worked to cut as much as $100 billion from economic stimulus legislation and clear the way for the bill’s passage as President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to “rise to this moment.”

With the economy showing fresh signs of weakness, Obama said Thursday, “The time for talk is over. The time for action is now.”

Senate Democratic leaders said they hoped for passage of the legislation by Friday, and prospects appeared to hinge on agreement to a series of changes that would trim the size of a bill costing well over $920 billion.

Senate centrists met privately, and emerged saying they had made progress toward an accord.

“The president made a strong case for a proposal that would be in the neighborhood of $800 billion,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who met with Obama at the White House on Wednesday.

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

Obama has issued a series of increasing dire warnings in recent days as the Senate debated the legislation at the heart of his economic recovery plan, and Thursday was no different.

Appearing before employees at the Department of Energy, he called on lawmakers to “rise to this moment. No plan’s perfect,” he said. “There have been constructive changes made to this one over the last several weeks. I would love to see additional improvements today.”

Democratic congressional officials said the president had invited some of the Senate moderates to the White House to discuss possible changes in the measure.

In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, the president argued that each day without his stimulus package, Americans lose more jobs, savings and homes. His message came as congressional leaders struggle to control the huge stimulus bill that’s been growing larger by the day in the Senate. The addition of a new tax break for homebuyers Wednesday evening sent the price tag well past $900 billion.

“This recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse,” Obama wrote in the newspaper piece.

He rejected the argument that more tax cuts are needed in the plan and that piecemeal measures would be sufficient. His latest plea came on the same day the economy dealt with another dose of bad news: A big jump in jobless claims and another round of weak retail sales.

Initial jobless claims rose to 626,000, a 26-year high, the Labor Department said. And the number of claims by people continuing to apply for unemployment benefits reached a new record of nearly 4.8 million.

The housing tax break was the most notable attempt to date to add help for the crippled industry and gave Republicans a victory as they work to remake the legislation more to their liking.

“It is time to fix housing first,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said Wednesday night as the Senate agreed without controversy to add the new tax break to the stimulus measure, at an estimated cost of nearly $19 billion.

Three swing-vote senators met with Obama at the White House on Wednesday to discuss possible cutbacks.

For their part, Senate Republicans signaled they would persist in their efforts to reduce spending in the measure, to add tax cuts and reduce the cost of mortgages for millions of homeowners.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090205
/ap_on_go_pr_wh/congress_stimulus

Senate Stimulated: Obama Economic Bill Under Revision

February 3, 2009

Perhaps, after all, bipartisanship lives in the United States Senate.

The issue is the President’s economic or recovery package, also called the stimulus.

Top Democrats plan to add a big increase in highway and mass transit funding.

Patty Murray, D-Wash., wants to add $25 billion in infrastructure projects.  That would bring the U.S. stimulus more in line with the plan now favored by France.

France yesterday rejected a stimulus plan without a lot of real infrastructureimprovements as “too much like the ‘Obama style’ plan.”

Highway projects in the stimulus would also be boosted by almost 50 percent, to $40 billion.

Republicans, for their part, readied a plan to lower mortgage costs to try to jolt the housing market out of its slump.

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) offered a plan with  $713 billion. He says his plan offers more immediate jobs and tax cuts and a smaller increase to the debt.

The $885 billion Senate economic plan faces tough going from both Democrats and Republicans during debate this week.

The proposal includes $430 billion in tax cuts, $114 billion for infrastructure projects, $138 billion for extending unemployment insurance, food stamps and other provisions to help those in need and $31 billion to address the housing crisis.

“The goal is to shape a package that is more targeted, that would be smaller in size and that would be truly focused on saving or creating jobs and turning the economy around,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Non-job making items in the House version of the simulus like $870 million to combat bird flu should be removed….

Republicans said their goal was to change the bill, not to block it. “Nobody that I know of is trying to keep a package from passing,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

“We need to fix housing first,” he said. Republicans are expected to seek a vote on their proposals this week as part of the debate on the overall stimulus measure.

Related:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS
/02/02/stimulus/index.html

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky,. discusses the ... 
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky,. discusses the Republican viewpoint on the economic stimulus package as he meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)