However, it could take many months before money begins flowing into the economy’s pipeline and even years before its impact is felt, veteran congressional observers said.
“I expect the stimulus bill will clear Congress sometime between mid-February and early March,” said Thomas Mann, a congressional analyst at the Brookings Institution.
“Some parts of the bill will get money out the door very quickly: unemployment benefits, food stamps, transfers to states, payroll tax reductions, if included. Other increases in government procurement will take some months to set in motion. New programs could take a year or longer. That means the impact of the stimulus on the economy will unfold over several years,” Mr. Mann said.
As the debate proceeds, there is increasing bipartisan worry that Mr. Obama’s giant stimulus bill will drive the government so deeply into debt that it will lead to significantly higher taxes in the future, severe cuts in existing government programs or both.
A group of fiscal watchdogs planned to discuss the legislation’s impact at a meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday that included the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Concord Coalition, the Heritage Foundation and the Democratic Progressive Policy Institute. The task of keeping the long-term budget in check is likely to fall to Mr. Obama, as congressional Democratic majorities will continue the push for new spending.
“You have to link the stimulus bill with longer-term budgetary reform right now,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, at a Howard University symposium Monday. “You really have to meld those two.”