The stimulus package was always expected to be passed in the Senate, but the lack of any Republicans votes for the stimulus bill in the House was a troublesome sign. With Democrats only having 58 votes in the Senate, the passage of the Senate stimulus bill would have to undergo more compromises, or else face more delays. With help from Arlen Specter and several moderate Senators, the Democrats may have gotten around that. Despite some reluctance from Arlen Specter and these Senators, the Senate stimulus bill may be ready for passage in the Senate by next Tuesday.
After 10 hours of private meetings, Democrats and opposition Senators like Specter finally agreed on some final compromises to get the Senate stimulus bill passed. When the final form of the Senate stimulus bill arrives, the cost will now be down to around $780 billion.
Specter joined Senators like Susan Collins, Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman in hashing out these concessions with Democratic leadership. However, their final agreement to the Senate stimulus bill is more out of a desire not to say no to President Obama and the country, rather than approval of the bill itself.
Republicans and several moderate Democrats have been against certain parts of the stimulus from the start. This opposition could have resulted in a possible filibuster, since Democrats do not have 60 votes. Therefore, Specter and his fellow Senators needed to reach an agreement with Obama’s team before any vote could be taken.
Specter himself still voiced his objection to parts of the Senate stimulus bill that “give me heartburn.” However, Obama’s need to get the bill passed quickly trumped Specter’s other concerns, and that of his fellow Senators.
Other fellow Republicans could produce some blowback against Specter for his eventual support. The party leadership continues to blast the Senate stimulus bill for wasteful spending and a lack of tax cuts.
President Obama quickly praised the compromise in his weekly radio address, continuing to call for a quick passage of the bill. Obama cited the release of January’s unemployment numbers, which showed almost 600,000 jobs lost in the last month, as proof.
New Republican chairman Michael Steele used his own weekly address to call the measure a “massive spending bill” which leaves nothing for the “family checkbook.”
Specter and Obama are in agreement that the bill is not perfect, for various and different reasons. But both are in agreement that speed trumps perfection in this case. Obama vowed for additional scrutiny of the bill, even as it heads for a final vote in the coming week.
Philadelphia Inquirer- “Specter: Stimulus deal ‘best we can do'” www.philly.com/inquirer/front_page/20090207_Specter__Stimulus_deal__best_we_can_do_.html
TheHill.com- “Obama lauds Senate stimulus compromise” thehill.com/leading-the-news/obama-lauds-senate-stimulus-compromise-2009-02-07.html