Have spent some time today talking to Republican and Democratic members of the Senate, as well as political strategists, about what is coming with the stimulus bill. The first thing is that the Republican critique of the bill, as passed by the House, has taken hold among some moderate Democrats — or, at least, they share many of the Republicans’ reservations. Those Democrats simply will not support the bill if it comes up in the Senate in the same form in which it passed the House. They want to see a lot — a lot — of spending taken out of the bill, spending that they might actually support were it in a normal appropriations bill but which they believe has no place in the stimulus package.
If a substantial amount of spending were taken out, there’s little doubt the bill would gain not just those moderate Democrats but a few Republican votes, as well. But that possibility is creating a tension of its own on the Democratic side. Why alienate Democrats on the left in order to sway a few Republicans when the great majority of Republicans is going to oppose the bill in any event? Who needs that sort of “bipartisanship” when Democrats have the strength to pass the bill on their own, even if they lose a couple of moderates in their own party? So look for that thinking to exert pressure against removing too much spending from the bill.
Meanwhile, from a Republican strategy point of view, there’s no doubt that the zero-GOP support in the House vote was a real morale booster. But some Republican strategists are pivoting to more emphasis on the GOP’s own stimulus proposal. They’ve had a good time ridiculing the crazy spending in the House bill, and they will keep doing it — because nearly all of that crazy spending is still in there — but they want to push hard on the pitch that the GOP has a better plan to deal with the economic crisis.