James Forsyth

Stimulating support for the stimulus

Stimulating support for the stimulus
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One of the key political questions about the stimulus was whether it would increase or decrease Obama momentum, whether the President would find it easier or harder to get controversial legislation through Congress afterwards. The initial package Obama proposed was politically savvy, 40 percent of the stimulus would come from tax cuts—an idea that Republicans liked. This seemed to guarantee a decent level of bi-partisan support for the bill which would have strengthened Obama’s hand going forward. But then, House Democrats got their hands on the bill.

In the package that the House voted on, only 22 percent of the stimulus came through tax cuts and funding had been added in for a whole bunch of projects that had little to do with either stimulating the economy or charting a better course for the American economy. House Republicans unanimously voted against it. Now, the bill has moved to the Senate and Obama would be hurt by another party line vote; it would leave him no longer able to confidently claim that he is someone who can bring both sides together to work for the common good and would, probably, mark the end of his honeymoon.

The White House is currently involved in a two-pronged push for Republican support. On the one hand, Obama is arguing for measures “that are not relevant to putting people back to work right now” to be dropped from the bill and pushing Congressional Democrats to make the bill more amenable to the Republicans. On the other, he is activating his email listall 13 million name of it—in support of the stimulus and using thebully-pulpit of the presidency to push for it; increasing the political cost of opposing it.

The goal of 80 votes in the Senate that the Obama team reportedly set itself seems an awfully long way off at the moment. It is going to take a lot of clever compromises and reining in the worst instincts of Congressional Democrats to get there.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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