A new $819 billion stimulus bill was passed by the House earlier this week, and the debate has moved on to the Senate, despite major opposition from House Republicans. Not a single Republican voted in favor of the bill according to the Wall Street Journal, but to get the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate, the bill’s supporters will need to garner at least some Republican votes without losing any of the 58 Democrat senators. To secure those necessary Republican votes, some concessions will likely need to be made. One way or another, it is expected that this bill will be passed, but it remains to be seen how much political capital Obama will have to spend to make it happen.
The major divide between the two parties on the bill basically boils down to the allocation of the funds. Both parties support a stimulus bill in principle, but Republicans want to see the funds going toward things such as tax-cuts where as Democrats prefer government spending. In reality, this debate isn’t new, and considering the heavy numbers advantage that the Democrats enjoy in the House, Senate and now White House, the bill should lean toward their ideology. However, it is likely that Republicans will get a bone or two thrown their way in the process. Obama has stated time and time again that he wants broad, bi-partisan support for this bill, but it is unlikely that Democrats will be willing to give up too much considering their steep numbers advantage.
As a side note, the Wall Street Journal reported the formation of a coalition which backs the stimulus bill and which includes labor and environmental groups. The purpose of the group is to raise pressure on senators—specifically Republican senators—to support the bill. They announced Thursday that they will air ads around the country to encourage Republicans, "to support the Obama plan for jobs, not the failed policies of the past." The ads will run in Maine, New Hampshire, Iowa and Alaska according to the Journal. You can be certain that Democrats will remind Republicans and their supporters that their policies have been nothing but failures of late. The public is largely on board with this sentiment, evidenced by numerous polls. If nothing else we should get a chance to see how these new policies actually work in today’s economic climate.