House Republicans Win Round One

I was waiting to appear on MSNBC with Norah O’Donnell, getting ready to talk about the stimulus package that was winding its way through the Senate (which didn’t happen, as Norah seems fixated on having me talk about Sarah Palin), when I watched Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) speaking about the stimulus first.

He stole my talking points. Basically, he said the following: The package that came from the House didn’t focus enough on housing. It didn’t have the right tax cuts. It didn’t spend the right amount on infrastructure. It didn’t spend enough on real stimulus. It had too much other spending that wasn’t really important to the current crisis.

The implication: The Senate was going to have to radically overhaul the package that passed the House.

House Republicans (and the 11 Democrats who dared cross Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.) win round one. They didn’t vote for the lousy bill because it won’t work. That is not the opinion of a bunch of right-wingers. It is the opinion of one of the Democratic leaders of the Senate.

Left-wing groups are running obnoxious ads in support of the “Obama” stimulus plan. But what is the Obama plan? Is it the House plan that has garnered so much legitimate criticism? Or is it the eventual package that will emerge from a Senate-House conference?

Now House Republicans can claim some credit for slowing this train down and getting some major momentum behind radical changes to the package. But that doesn’t mean that they will be successful in stopping it completely, and really, that shouldn’t be the goal.

The goal should be to get a package that will actually work. A focus on housing, on real stimulus, and on targeted tax relief will, theoretically, help the economy (if anything can). Wasting billions of dollars to social engineering, it is generally agreed, will do nothing but put the country in even deeper trouble.

House Republicans have won Round One. If they can use their best rhetorical weapons, and get the Senate to adopt their best ideas, perhaps they can win Round Two as well.


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