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What’s next with the U.S. stimulus plan?

We know the U.S. stimulus plan won’t realistically help Caterpillar or the construction industry for several quarters, but what’s happening inside the Beltway today can set the tone for the entire Obama administration. Right now the Republicans have gotten religion on fiscal discipline after eight years of living it up. They still have only one answer to all that ails the nation: cutting taxes.

This article in the San Francisco Chronicle offers a nice overview of the horse-trading over the stimulus package.

Obama’s efforts to reach out to the opposition party are unlike anything witnessed in the last administration or even those before it. He is trekking to Capitol Hill again today for Republican-only meetings in the House and Senate. He has already incorporated large tax cuts in the stimulus to lure GOP support. Obama is looking for two things: at least partial Republican ownership of a risky, costly policy experiment, and avoidance of the kind of partisan rupture that nearly killed a much smaller and less critical effort by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

“We don’t have any pride of ownership,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Republicans face risks of their own. While attacking what they call pork and overspending, they do not want responsibility for killing what is now the government’s last, best hope to reverse or at least slow an alarming worldwide economic decline.

So far, Obama’s living up to his promise of a “reach across the aisle” presidency. The final result will be pug-ugly no matter what, but Obama has a canny knack for getting what he wants despite long odds. As much as the Democrats want to say “screw the GOP, we beat ’em fair and square,” they need to be able to avoid culpability in the next election if all goes wrong. Getting the GOP to go along is like insurance (though the GOP could make the cynical calculation to stand aside, let things go to hell and blame it all on the Democrats in 2010. Let’s hope they behave more like grownups.)

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Tom Mangan posted at 8:51 am January 27th, 2009 |

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