- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009

The partisanship that marked the House fight over President Obama’s $819 billion economic stimulus plan carried over to the Senate Thursday, with both Democrats and Republicans insisting the other side needed more flexibility.

Senate Republicans appear to be on the same page as their House colleagues, all 177 of whom voted against the massive package of new spending and tax cuts that passed Wednesday. A group of Republican senators Thursday slammed congressional Democrats for shutting them out of the process of writing the Senate’s version of the bill.

“There is a growing and grim recognition within our conference that there’s very little likelihood of a significant change in this colossal spending bill,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican. “And so we need to resist this package with everything that we have.”

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said “Republicans have appreciated the president’s outreach to present ideas.”

But, he added, “we are too often met with this response: ‘We won and therefore we’re going to do it our way.’ That’s true and they can do that if they want to — they can cram down a stimulus package without Republican support.”

Mr. Kyl, at a press conference Thursday with nearly a dozen of his colleagues, said Senate Republicans would “rather have the input now to make sure this package works.”

But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, accused House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, of “leading his Republicans off a cliff” is pressuring his caucus to reject Mr. Obama’s plan en masse.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he still hoped for Republican votes in favor of the Senate bill, noting that President Obama had come to Capitol Hill to lobby congressional Republicans personally for their support. But Mr. Reid, whose party holds a 58-41 majority in the Senate, made clear he was determined to pass the stimulus bill quickly regardless of Republican support.

“If we don’t [get Republican votes], it won’t be our fault for not trying,” he said.

Congressional Democrats still say they hope to see some Republican defections in support of the final bill, which includes broad tax cuts and spending projects for every congressional district in the country. The White House stepped up the pressure Thursday by releasing projections on how much each state would receive from the stimulus bill.

Republicans said they plan to offer several amendments to the bill when it hits the floor next week but made it clear they are holding out little hope for bipartisanship, given the bill’s two mark-ups in Senate Appropriations and Finance committees — where no Republican amendments were adopted — as well as Wednesday’s House vote.

Specifically, Republicans cited the need for additional tax relief and better targeted investments in infrastructure. They also criticized what they described as wasteful and irresponsible spending.

“This is about spending money we don’t have for things we don’t need,” said Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. “This is the generational theft bill.”

For it to gain Republican votes, there would have to be at least some “key Republican concepts embedded in the legislation,” said Mr. Kyl, without being more specific.

The Senate bill is already at least $70 billion more costly than the version approved by the House, after the Senate Finance Committee added a provision temporarily protecting many middle-income tax-filers from paying a heftier bill this year because of the alternative minimum tax.

Mr. Reid and Senate Democratic Richard Durbin of Illinois said the drumbeat of grim economic news on jobs, credit and consumer confidence made it imperative that Congress act quickly to bolster the economy.

“We have a very serious crisis on our hands,” Mr. Reid said.

He dismissed Republican complaints about items in the stimulus bill that critics say will do little to create new jobs or will take too long to have an impact.

“It’s easy to sit back and nitpick,” he said. “Is everything in it perfect? Of course not. But it’s a good package.”

Mr. Schumer rejected the suggestion that the bill would be a “failure” if it fails to attract significant Republican support.

“The bill will be a failure if it fails to pass, or if it doesn’t work,” he said. “The idea that we going to eviscerate the package to get 80 votes for something that doesn’t work — that’s not where we’re going to go.”