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January 29, 2009

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So is the next step to pass the stimulus in its crippled form, hoping to amend or extend it later -- or to revise it in the direction Democrats would prefer, now that it's clear that that won't lose it any votes?

I don't know what the next step is, but I want the medium-term payoff to be a lot of the current crop of House Republicans getting defeated in 2010, and the ultimate payoff to be the reemergence of the Republican party in a sane form.

(That's the payoff to the bipartisan efforts, of course. The payoff to the stimulus is different.)


Why exactly should we care about "a lot of the current crop of House Republicans getting defeated in 2010", Hilzoy? In what possible way would that make sensible legislation easier to pass in the House? How few Republicans do there have to be before the Democrats say, boldly and confidently, "We're in charge now. You guys lost. Go kowtow to Limbaugh and leave us alone to try and clean up the mess you've made."

We don't just need fewer Republicans. We need better Democrats. If another couple of dozen Dems take over GOP seats in 2010, all we will have is another couple of dozen Dems who are too timid to act like Democrats because their districts are full of dittoheads. Democrats need to catch on to the fact that they won already, and the goal now is not to "win" some more -- it's to replace bankrupt GOP policies with good Democratic ones and see what happens.

Some people already know what will happen. For the first time, this evening, I heard a Republican (on MSNBC, maybe?) refer to "Obama's second term". Republicans, at least, understand just how thoroughly the country has repudiated their dogma. They must be getting a real kick out of the fact that Obama is still trying to pretend otherwise.

--TP

Agree with Tony. And whatever the merits of trying to win Republicans, hilzoy, once it becomes clear that's impossible, you should just pass the best bill possible.

We didn't do that. We put in a lot of tax cut stuff that didn't work under Bush, and sure as hell won't work now when people don't know where their next dollar is coming from.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lay the infrastructure groundwork for a generation, and we muffed it in a failed attempt to win a few unnecessary Republican votes.

Didn't Obama drop the idea about paying for contraception from the stimulus bill because Republicans want moar abortions for their buck? Or something like that - I lost track of their reasoning why it's bad to fund abortion prevention activities somewhere around the first blurble.

Yet he couldn't get a single Republican to vote for it anyway: Hope he learned a valuable lesson about pro-lifers...

But isn't it cool that Democrats didn't need Republicans - or even 100% support from Democrats! to pass this bill? More backbone, less whining...

"The function of trying to win bipartisan support, it seems to me, is to clarify things to the American people."

Seems to me the function is making sure that if things subsequently go south, the blame is shared. Anti-clarification, if you will. As things stand, if the 'stimulus' package is a huge flop, Democrats own it. Ditto if it's a huge success. Can't get much clearer than that.

That's good, Democrats are in charge, they deserve to have the outcome of their polices, good OR bad, pinned on them.

As for the Republicans, they need to figure out what they really stand for, and then really stand for it. They've done a remarkably good job since '94 of proving to their natural base that they didn't mean a thing they'd been saying. It's going to take a decade or more for them to live that down, and having many of the people responsible in "safe" seats, clinging to the reins of power within the party, doesn't help. They're actually going to have to wait for those folks to die off before they can be credible again.

They better hope the Democrats don't take this window of complete dominance as an opportunity to institutionally lock in their control, and turn America into a one-party state. I'm half expecting it.

They better hope the Democrats don't take this window of complete dominance as an opportunity to institutionally lock in their control, and turn America into a one-party state. I'm half expecting it.

I wouldn't worry. If the Republicans take their natural place as the unelectable screaming right-wing nutcases, then the obvious next thing to happen is for the Democratic Party to fracture into a right-wing party and a left-wing wing party... and you never know: you might get some kind of electoral reform in the fracturing so that the US can move on from the kind of winner-takes-all first-past-the-post-is-the-winner politics that ensures you're locked into two-party government.

I'm afraid that the Republicans blanketing the news channels looked serious and concerned while they spouted their nonsense. The viewer is not listening to details (it's geeky economics, nasty) but is affected by the image. The Democrats have fallen down totally on explaining to the American people what needs to be done, and why we shouldn't repeat the past. Pelosi and friends should have put on a full court press to show why the Republicans were full of [email protected]#@t. And I'm afraid Reid isn't going to do any better.

"you can ensure that that fact will be plain to the world."

If the media (and as Michael L points out, the Democrats) do their job.

Who wants to bet on that?

Pelosi and friends should have put on a full court press to show why the Republicans were full of [email protected]#@t. And I'm afraid Reid isn't going to do any better.

Pelosi and Reid remain worse than worthless. shocking!

where's the Limbaugh of the left ?

"Didn't Obama drop the idea about paying for contraception from the stimulus bill because Republicans want moar abortions for their buck? Or something like that - I lost track of their reasoning why it's bad to fund abortion prevention activities somewhere around the first blurble."

Jes: Why was the contraception initiative in a stimulus bill in the first place?

Nice to see Democrats pushing contraception, but in a stimulus bill?

Same thing about the Capitol Mall billion-dollar sodding project.

We were all outraged when the Big Three auto execs took separate private jets to the bailout hearings. They sent the wrong message and were sent back to Detroit to get their act together.

I think Dems are sending the wrong message loading up a stimulus bill with this sort of thing.

I also think the GOP, in looking anti-stimulus, is sending the wrong message.

This needs to be about jobs, job relief and job creation -- not contraception or Bush-light tax cuts

btfb: the point of a stimulus bill is to get money into the economy; the point of the appropriations part os to do that by employing people. Why not resod the mall? That employs people too.

I'd love to have my lawn resodded; that'd employ some people. Might as well do the neighbor's while you're at it; all the Bermuda that's infested my yard is coming from over there.

Methinks resodding the mall isn't one of those long-term job creation programs.

...but it might resemble more closely the direct-payment kind of thing. I guess you may as well get some kind of tangible result for those, where possible.

You're right, hilzoy, I guess it can't all be about directly creating jobs.

But the second you put something in there like contraception is the second you lose bipartisanship -- and it gives the GOP one of those symbolism issues in which to pounce on.

The sod on the Mall did look terrible and looks as if it could use improving, but at, I believe, $5 billion?

Maybe I am clueless. But shouldn't $5 billion go a long way toward beautifying all of Washington?

Or was it $5 million?

Anyway, that just sounds like sod you ought to be able to smoke.

that just sounds like sod you ought to be able to smoke

Now that's sod I can believe in!

For $5mil in material cost, you can get about 5 million square feet of sod laid.

Call it 100 acres, more or less. Depends on cost of labor.

Dang, that's not material cost, that's total cost.

Bedtime, it was $200 million, but it wasn't all about sod. It was for refurbishing the Mall, including maintenance of monuments. But by all means, continue spouting the Republican spin. Much better to have our national capital look shabby, since work here doesn't count as work. Besides, some of the money might go to people who have no vote in Congress, so what's the point in keeping them happy?

Jes: Why was the contraception initiative in a stimulus bill in the first place?

Nice to see Democrats pushing contraception, but in a stimulus bill?

I'm not Jes, but from where I sit:

1. Family planning services consist of a lot more than just condom vending machines in rest area bathrooms.

2. A lot of family planning clinics, particularly in hard-hit urban and far-flung rural areas, are extremely underfunded, and in some cases have shut down altogether.

3. Funding those services will allow some of these clinics to hire sorely-needed staff.

4. People who are out of work or living paycheck-to-paycheck will want to ensure that they aren't adding more burdens -- i.e., extra children -- to the family.

5. They can get low-cost or free contraceptive services at the aforementioned family planning clinics, provided those clinics are properly funded.

Dang, that's not material cost, that's total cost.

Displaying the engineer's typical facility with cost estimates. :-)

I like the clarity of the Republican screeching about affordable contraception, and the president and Democratic leadership willing to take action to keep the priorities of poor women at the bottom of the pile.

Cuts right through the b.s. about sanctity of life; Republicans actually oppose contraception, not just abortion.

And sends a clear signal, unless Dems quickly restore family planning funding that has been slashed for a decade in another bill, that the poor have very few real friends in Congress.

Slarti, is that pricing for home yard turf? Because I'd expect that what's needed on the National Mall is something considerably tougher and more heavy-duty -- more on the order of football stadium turf.

What no one knows is whether the stimulus will fail or succeed, or if we'll even be able to tell. The structural hit our economy will take with the huge new deficit will restrict to an unknown degree future governments from borrowing. Were I a pro-stimulus Democrat, I would try to learn from Iraq/Mission Accomplished. It is way to early to crow and way too early to castigate Republicans, who could well turn out to be correct. Keep in mind, the issue isn't whether to stimulate, but how to do it.

On another note, Hilzoy credits Obama for "being willing to compromise and [but not] being willing to surrender." Wouldn't that also hold true for Republicans and isn't it a bit much to say that Obama compromised by dropping birth control from the stimulus package?

I hope the stimulus works and if it does, all credit to Obama and the Dems. But, this is a democracy. If it flops, they pay the price.

Nell, I guess the legend is firmly established at this point, and the funds have been stripped out anyway, but: it's not just sod. It's maintenance of the Mall, including things like keeping the Jefferson Memorial grounds from sinking into the Tidal Basin.

KC: A beautification of Washington is a wonderful idea, and would surely put some people to work. If it was sold that way, maybe the GOP tizzy over sod would not have gotten so much play.

hilzoy, I'm glad to see somebody else is taking this calmly rather than reading apocalyptic portents into this: ZOMG the GOP is doooooomed! 1-party state here we come!, or: ZOMG Obama is an idiot! He gave away the whole candy store!

Here's my take - between now and the 2010 mid-terms most of the real legislative give and take in DC is going to be in the Senate. In the House Democrats can do more or less as they please. The Senate is a different story both because the Dem majority is slimmer and because of the need to get cloture votes. This is the first of many votes this year and next, where framing the debate in the Senate will determine if bills pass or not. This isn't the last spending bill, or even the last transportation bill, in this Congress.

Consequently Obama is playing a long game here. If the House GOP comes across as looking shrill and partisan, it gives Harry Reid more leverage in the Senate to get that 60th vote on cloture from one of the GOP moderates, because otherwise they fit into a very simple media narrative: GOP obstructionism. If the votes are more complicated and it isn’t so clear who is being partisan then the GOP moderates in the Senate can hide in the clutter and get away with voting down cloture without being in the center of the public spotlight. Not so with this bill.

Essentially Obama is playing divide and conquer with the GOP, working to split the ideologues from the moderates, with the latter almost entirely residing in the Senate (where the real action is). Also, anything which is “given away” to the GOP in the House, which in no way shape or form would have been able to pass thru the Senate, is simply getting bipartisanship points for free. These are things we weren’t going to get regardless, so why all the wailing? You can’t “lose” something you were never going to get.

One last point - a President who follows in the footsteps of a very unpopular predecessor owes some (perhaps much) of their popularity and approval to the notion that they have opposite qualities to those of their predecessor. Reagan was the anti-Jimmy Carter. Obama is the anti-George Bush. This vote may do for Obama what firing the air traffic controllers did for Reagan - it confirms in the public mind early on in his term that he does in fact possess those qualities opposite to his unpopular predecessor for which he was chosen.

In Reagan's case firing the ATC's confirmed via action his public image of being decisive and tough (in contrast to Carter). In Obama's case reaching out to and attempting to find middle ground with the House GOP delegation confirms that he is careful, thoughtful and willing to listen (in contrast to Bush).

So this is a bias-confirmation moment, helping Obama to cement his reputation as an across-the-aisle kind of guy. The political payoff for that will come during looming confrontations with the GOP over more controversial issues like health care reform.

This is just the first skirmish in a long drawn out contest. Obama got most of what he and his economic team wanted, and made the House GOP look like slaves to Rush Limbaugh as an added bonus. If this is a victory for the GOP, it is a Pyrrhic one.

bedtimeforbonzo: Jes: Why was the contraception initiative in a stimulus bill in the first place?

Because $87 billion of the stimulus package was going to Medicaid budgets. One of the many nasty little things that the Bush administration did to women while they were in power (isn't it great to be able to use the past tense?) was tnat states had to get specific permission to spend Medicaid money on birth control. This specific permission should have been included in the stimulus bill, because now the $87 billion (as I understand the situation) that is going to Medicaid, can't be used to pay for contraceptive-related expenses: women on Medicaid who are heterosexually active will either have to find the money to pay their birth control expenses somehow, or else end up with unplanned pregnancies which will, more likely than not, be aborted. Incidentally, Medicaid won't pay for abortion, either, though it will pay for the much more expensive costs of aftercare after an unsafe illegal abortion.

And that's the pro-life movement for you, folks.

KC: A beautification of Washington is a wonderful idea, and would surely put some people to work. If it was sold that way, maybe the GOP tizzy over sod would not have gotten so much play.

Please. If they thought it was to their advantage, the GOP could work itself into a tizzy over what kind of cereal Sasha and Malia ate this morning. Tizzy is what they do.

It sounds like this actually was a "beautification of Washington" project, and the GOP managed to cherry-pick one portion of it and label it pork...which got all the right-wing talking heads to talk it up...which, in turn, got all the "moderate" talking heads talking about the "controversy"...and as they say across the pond, Bob's yer uncle.

There is no way the Dems could have "sold" the bill without some aspect of it being subjected to this kind of silliness. As many others have said upthread, the Dems shouldn't be thinking anything other than "full speed ahead."

[i]On another note, Hilzoy credits Obama for "being willing to compromise and [but not] being willing to surrender." Wouldn't that also hold true for Republicans . . . ?[/i]

Uh, if, as is likely, none of the House Republicans was ever going to vote for this bill anyway, but managed to stamp their feet enough to get things removed from the bill, exactly what compromosing on their parts was taking place? Please show your work.

Slarti, is that pricing for home yard turf? Because I'd expect that what's needed on the National Mall is something considerably tougher and more heavy-duty -- more on the order of football stadium turf.

Yeah, it's Floratam, which is used for a lot of different applications. Pro ball fields use various kinds of artificial grass, commonly; the Cardinals play on a Bermuda hybrid that costs about the same as Floratam. What would actually be best for the mall is...I have no idea. I haven't lived in that climate since well before I became a homeowner.

What would actually be best for the mall is...

a yellow brick road!

@KCinDC: Thanks; I understand that the proposal wasn't all sod.

It's just that I just started thinking about the sod as I watched the inaugural festivities and saw pictures taken by people who were there. I couldn't help but notice that the ground looks about the shabbiest I've ever seen it.

Having a record number of people tromp on it while frozen is something of a last straw (though it would have been worse if the temps had been above freezing, turning it into a sea of mud).

Nell, yes, I'm sure it's even worse now. And probably some trees were damaged by all the people climbing into them. Pretty much all vegetation anywhere near the Mall was trampled by the mobs trying to find a way out after the swearing in.

"Nice to see Democrats pushing contraception, but in a stimulus bill?"

Jeebus, this is part of relieving state budgets of deficits, which is a huge part of stimulus, since the Federal government can run deficits, and state governments can't.

So, yes, it's key, and on top of that it's a necessary thing to do, unless one wants more poverty and more abortions.

A decent analysis
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/01/explaining_the_stimulus_vot.html

Looks to me like Al Giordano has a similar take on the political dynamics going on here over the stimulus bill.

Also, I loved this bit from one of the commentors in that thread:


With all due respect to Al, I understood Obama's game pretty clearly today without having to have it explained to me. And it's not because I'm just that brilliant a political observer. It's actually pretty easy to figure out because it's just another version of the game he played in the election campaign:

1. Call on people to listen to their better angels and put aside petty fights.

2. Extend an olive branch and make a "concession" that's not really as big as it seems.

3. Allow himself to be slapped by the other side who thinks they've got a pushover on their hands.

4. Wait for the other side to overextend themselves.

5. Chide the other side for being childish and then proceed to do what he always meant to do anyway.

He did it to Hillary (most notably when dealing with the issue of delegate counts in Michigan and Florida), he did it to McCain (the debate rules), and now he's doing it to the Republicans in Congress. What amazes me is the other side falls for it every time. You'd think they would learn by now.

I'm glad to see your take, Hilzoy, given up to now I've mostly seen justified hand-wringing and anger at all that was going out of the bill, and "can't he see the Republicans won't compromise ? Pass the best bill possible already !!!".

So I hope you're right. And it seems to me given the recession, isn't it likely there will be other bills and policies that will be put in place, that we don't need to focus so much on this stimulus package ?

Anyway, even if you're right that makes the netroots and Maddow show anger and complaining all the more important, because saying "I've tried" is good, saying "I tried at immense political cost, look at how my base hates me !" is even better.

Of course this is only good if he subsequently uses that political capital to do something the base likes... Given Obama's history of bipartisanship, it's a valid worry I think.

TLT - Interesting. I think it Judos the current political combat tactics, which for a long while has been "Toughest Wins." Also, "Shrillest Wins." Against all their other foes, the compromiser gets painted as weak or insincere, and loses. Maybe Obamas oratory, and his character, allow him to avoid that image and so blunt everyones main attack.*

On the other hand, it's not clear what accepting his olive branch would get them. He has a history of making very successful compromise solutions, and I imagine he'd get most or all of the credit for them. Like a five year old being in a tantrum - once someone appeals to your better angels, the very last thing you can do is be reasonable.

*I note Obama is being criticised as both weak and disloyal to his base. It's just, hopefully, not going to stick.

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