THE BIG QUESTION, Feb. 3: Do Dems Need Bipartisanship?

The Big Question is a feature where influential lawmakers, pundits and interest group leaders give their answers to a question that’s driving discussion in news circles around the country.

Some responses are gathered via e-mail, while others are gathered in person via tape recorder.

Today’s Big Question is:
Given Democrats' grip on power, is there any need for them to seek Republican votes in favor of the stimulus?

See responses below from Sen. Carl Levin, Dr. Larry J. Sabato, Sen. Jim Webb, Dean Baker, Ron Bonjean, Bertha Lewis, Sen. Robert Casey, and Sen. Russ Feingold.

See the last Big Question here.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said:
Yeah, there is. I think it may even be subject to 60 votes. We're trying to find that out. I think you have to have 60 votes to get the package passed.

Response obtained in person at the Capitol via digital recorder.


Dr. Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said:
Elections matter. Whenever Republicans have won, their Presidents got one or more big-ticket items during the honeymoon. The Democrats won big in November 2008, and they can shape the stimulus as they please. In the final analysis, this is what they will do, and there is no vote-counting ‘need’ to seek GOP support... Read the full response


Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) said:
I'm one of probably 8 or 9 Democrats who are trying to take a very cautious approach on this overall number, and I would hope Republicans would join us when we come up with some proposals.

Response obtained in person at the Capitol via digital recorder.


Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:
The need is to quickly pass a stimulus package that will boost the economy. If Republicans are willing to support such a package, that would be great. Obviously, this could mean some deals... Read the full response


Ron Bonjean, president of The Bonjean Company said:
If the Democrats want a public relations win, it is vital that they do everything possible to make the stimulus bipartisan. Or else it will be a legislative win with the hopes that the stimulus package actually helps the economy. If it doesn’t the Democrats who voted for it will have to explain themselves in November of 2010.


Bertha Lewis, chief organizer of ACORN, said:
President Obama has been leading the way for Democrats by demonstrating a new way of doing business in Washington. To date, the Republicans haven’t gotten the message. By turns, they have been praising Obama, bashing Democratic congressional leaders, and, most importantly, voting en masse with Rush Limbaugh... Read the full response


Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) said:
I think it's very important to get bipartisan help -- if not for passage, for the long term. You can't sustain support for the kinds of things we're gonna have to do in a couple years with one party... Read the full response


Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said:

That would be what we should do. It's very important that we have as many bipartisan efforts as possible, but of course there has to be a two-way street. They have to seek us out too.

Response obtained in person at the Capitol via digital recorder.