Editorial: "Stimulus" Abandons Hope and Changes for the Worse
Word emanating from Capitol Hill is that Congressional Democratic leaders, while promising transparency and bipartisanship in government, have essentially shut Republicans out of the debate over the so-called “stimulus” bill. And the package now totals some $789 billion, or $1.1 trillion after interest.
Top Hill sources report that Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) met privately through the night with other Democratic officials to put on the finishing touches to this partisan, pork-filled legislation. Which breaks a promise made by President Obama to “reform congressional rules to require all legislative sessions, including committee mark-ups and conference committees… be conducted in public.”
Initially, President Obama touted the addition of tax cuts, in an attempt to woo Republicans. But Republicans, concerned over the bill's high price tag for future generations and the lack of permanent tax relief, could not bring themselves to go along to get along.
And for not providing their colleagues across the aisle with adequate political cover, Congressional Democrats simply did not include Republicans in their late-night meeting. The truth is, Congressional Republicans refusal to back a bill which would land the nation in another trillion dollars more of debt put a quick end even to the contrived appearance of bipartisanship the President had bandided about.
To date, the only Republicans whose input was included in the final stages of this process were the three Senators who had already broken ranks with their Party: Specter, Snowe, and Collins. All three yesterday appeared side-by-side with Senate Democrats touting the grand bargain that had been struck.
As a result, Democrats are now dropping any pretense of bipartisanship, and even appear to be changing its very definition. Just last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated that just because “the Republicans don't vote for it doesn't mean they didn't have an opportunity to.” Additionally, she argued, Democrats had been “bipartisan” because they were “open” to Republican ideas.
Using this new definition, all the Democrats have to do is “consider” Republican measures, and then give Republicans an “opportunity to vote” on the Democrats' preferred bill. No, Madame Speaker, that is not bipartisanship. It is partisan politics at its worst. And to pretend it is bipartisan just to claim to have political cover will not mean that any such cover is provided.
It's no wonder then that, of the 219 House and Senate Republicans, only 3 have voted for the “stimulus.” And now, after a speedy production of the conference report, the House is expected to approve the trillion dollar bill today. The Senate would then follow with a vote on Friday.
Democrats need to just acknowledge the “stimulus” bill for what it is—a radical, aggressive, and partisan approach to problems the government created in the first place. With only “about 12 cents for every $1” in the bill going to non-pork projects, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, no Republican worth his or her salt really wants to have the stain on the record of supporting it. For, when the plan fails, as it undoubtedly will, Republicans will be able to remind Americans that they at least tried to stand against it.
And that is why it is so important that, as the revised stimulus plan comes to the floor of the House and Senate, Republicans continue to maintain their fierce opposition to it. Three-quarters of a trillion dollars rising to over a trillion after interest—to borrow from the legendary Everett Dirksen. Especially when those who are drawing up the plans find it necessary to operate in secret, out of sight of fellow Republicans and the American people.
Just Tuesday, Republicans forced Democrats to promise to make the bill public for 48 hours after the conference report before voting. Unfortunately, that promise is not being kept as the bill now appears to be on the fast track, with a vote possibly today. Given the amount of pork already contained, and the nonchalance with which top Democrats acknowledge that fact, the conference report looks like it will simply be ploughed through before the American people have any time to look it over.
It is therefore easy to understand why the American taxpayers will undoubtedly become more enraged to find that the bill contains even more questionable uses of their hard-earned dollars (or those from future generations) than was originally thought. And then Republicans will be able to capitalize on that politically and turn public opinion further against such wasteful measures.
For now, the only hope is if Blue Dog Democrats in the House to suddenly rediscover their fiscally-conservative convictions. Or, at least, those of their constituents. Should that happen, the bill still could ultimately fail. And the Democratic leadership will suddenly find that their false claims of bipartisanship had more bite than they ever could possibly have imagined.
ALG CTA: The House and Senate will be voting on this conference report over the next couple of days! Contact your Congressmen and Senators and tell them to stop the "stimulus" before it is too late! The Capitol Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.