Believe it or not, yesterday’s passage of President Obama’s proposed stimulus package (see here)has made me hopeful. Not because it passed, but because every House Republican and 11 Democrats opposed the bill. Citing the excessive spending measures and padding of bureaucracies that have repeatedly failed financial audits, Republicans are standing up to the measure and refusing to apologize. Their vocal opposition to the proposed inclusion of funding for family planning interests, which have no place in a measure aimed at stimulating the economy, has already forced retreat on the part of the Democrats, who withdrew it after a few lame attempts to defend it (see lame defense attempt here at littlecog). While Republicans still have a long way to go to win back my trust, it’s good to see them at least giving more than lip service to fiscal responsibility and conservatism.
And there’s a lot to stand up to. This editorial by the Wall Street Journal, which breaks out some of the unbelievably wasteful spending measures proposed by the Democrat majority that have absolutely NOTHING to do with creating jobs or stimulating the economy, has sent this conservative into a rage. Where are President Obama’s promises of a package free of pork now (see here)? Why isn’t he standing up to this? And why did it take the Democrats right up until the day before the vote on the bill to release the details (you can read the plan, in vague, rhetorical broad strokes, here)? Worse still is the closing of the WSJ op-ed piece, which addresses one of the big questions of the stimulus’ aftermath, which has as yet gone casually ignored: will these spending increases be the new “spending floor” for Congress going forward, or will they roll back the glut when the economy turns around? The answer is almost certainly that the stimulus package will become the new baseline for spending, as the special interests and programs receiving this money will scarcely accept cuts. And Congress will almost certainly attempt to quietly get away with increasing the budget in 2010 beyond the final stimulus figure; whether they will or not depends entirely on us.
I will be keeping a watchful eye on the Senate, which is set to vote on the House bill as early as Monday and is in the process of drafting a bill of its own as we speak, reportedly with an even higher price tag attached to it. But in the current climate, with Republicans maintaining a cogent and honorable opposition that uses Obama’s promises of bipartisanship and fiscal responsibility against him, I don’t see either the House or Senate bill passing any time soon. What remains to be seen is if the Republicans will suffer for delaying action of addressing the crisis, and if so what compromises they’re willing to settle for in order to cling to what little political capital they have left over from 2008.
As always, stay tuned…