by Todd Beeton, Thu Dec 18, 2008 at 04:21:14 PM EST
The first challenge of President-elect Obama's first term and of the 111th Congress looks likely to be the passage of a major stimulus package. Obama has been clear that it is his first priority and while he's generally been reluctant to assign a dollar figure to it, he's usually cited a range of between $500b-$1tr. Over the past few weeks, it's become clear that the final number would likely be at the high end of that range and sure enough, now we're starting to get a more specific number:
President-elect Barack Obama is laying the groundwork for a giant economic stimulus package, possibly $850 billion over two years, in his first test of legislative give and take with Congress.
Obama's economic advisers are assembling a recovery plan and reaching out to members of Congress and their staffs.
Obama aides cautioned that they have not settled on a specific grand total. But they noted that economists from across the political spectrum have recommended spending similar or even larger amounts to jolt the worsening economy.
To aid in the passage of Obama's package is a campaign to be launched by progressive groups in order to pressure wavering members.
Despite the uncertainty, Obama got help Thursday from 20 progressive groups investing more than $4 million in advertising and other events to push moderate Democratic and Republican lawmakers to help pass the package. Whatever the details, the package should be on the new president's desk, ready for him to sign, the day he takes office on Jan. 20, members of the group said in a conference call.
A wise acknowledgment that there is likely to be resistance by many folks all over the country to such a large injection of money we don't actually have into the economy. But if what I saw last night is any indication, it's not just moderate and Republican districts where people will need convincing.
I attended an economic forum held by Congressman-elect Jim Himes here in my parents' district (CT-04) and while not widespread, the idea of another stimulus package was met with some real resistance. Of particular concern was the idea that new members would be asked to vote for it mere hours after being sworn in on January 6th (how else would it be on Obama's desk on Jan. 20th?) Will there be time for these Freshmen to actually take the package back to their constituents between their swearing in and their voting for it? How many of them are holding similar forums to gauge the concerns of people in their districts before they're even in Congress? Jim Himes deserves a lot of credit for going on this listening tour of his district before he's even entered Congress and if it is indeed their intention, I hope the House leadership is aware of the sensitivity of having new members vote for something this sweeping mere moments after having been sworn in. As I saw first hand last night, it does not play well and could put some of these new members in an awkward spot with some of their constituents before they've even barely had a chance to break in their new offices.