Belmont Club

Not a moment to spare

The NYT reports that President Obama is racing against time to save the world.

WASHINGTON — Declaring that “we don’t have a moment to spare,” President Obama on Wednesday pushed hard for passage of his economic stimulus plan, promising that it would be not just enormous in scope but run with a transparency and accountability not always associated with huge Washington projects.

While nobody actually seems to know what amounts will be placed at Obama’s disposal, the sums will be vast.

The numbers in the president’s program, while astronomical, seemed to defy precision. Accountants at the Congressional Budget Office recalculated the cost, putting it at $816 billion rather than the $825 billion often used. But in a voice vote on Wednesday, House Democrats added $3 billion for mass transit.

The White House meeting was part of an aggressive promotional campaign by the president and his top aides. Congressional leaders of both parties were invited to cocktails at the White House Wednesday evening. On Monday, Mr. Obama took the unusual step of going to the Capitol to try to win support for his program.

The Times Online (UK) says that the stimulus package will probably be approved along party lines in the face of unexpected opposition by Republicans.

President Obama’s $825 billion (£575 billion) plan to revive America’s economy is tonight expected to pass the House of Representatives – but in the face of unexpectedly fierce Republican opposition and partisan rancour. … Despite his popularity and a rare presidential visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet House and Senate Republicans, Mr Obama is struggling to drum up significant cross-party support. It is confounding his hopes of winning broad approval for the package and for his campaign pledge to end Washington’s inter-party squabbling. “Old habits die hard,” Mr Obama said as he acknowledged that the new age of bipartisanship had yet to reach Capitol Hill.

Update: The NYT reports that the House approved President Obama’s stimulus package by a vote of 244-188.

Although the president’s legislative victory was no surprise, given the Democrats’ 255-to-178 advantage in the House, the lack of any Republican support was a disappointment for Mr. Obama. The vote came hours after Mr. Obama declared that “we don’t have a moment to spare” just after conferring with business leaders at the White House. Before voting on President Obama’s plan, the House rejected a stimulus measure offered by Republican members that focused more on tax cuts. The vote against that measure was 266 to 170, almost entirely on party lines.

Obama always had the numbers to pass his stimulus package. The nearly solid opposition by Republicans to its passage means that for better or worse, this package is his. This roll call on this vote will be referred to as events unfold, either to condemn or to vindicate. Now we’ll see which.