On Capitol Hill, you can feel the Republicans’ growing sense of confidence. They’ve scored a lot of hits on the stimulus bill, and now they’re aiming higher. “We’ll try to make the bill better,” Sen. Jim DeMint said a few moments ago, “but this bill is so bad…you can’t fix it by tweaking around the edges…The best thing to happen would be for President Obama to lead, to call a time out.” Several Republicans now want to throw the whole bill out and replace it with a package that is nearly all tax cuts — “twice the jobs at half the price.”
After the Republican news conference, I asked DeMint how many Republican senators oppose the bill — and how many might be won over by a minimum number of changes stripping the bill of its notorious spending provisions, rather than demanding a complete overhaul of the bill. “I think we’ve got nearly 100 percent of Republicans who are going to vote against this bill unless it is fundamentally changed to include real economic stimulus,” DeMint said. “I think just about every Republican has come around to the realization that this is a massive spending bill, it’s a grab bag full of the Democrats’ wish lists, and they’re shamefully using the economic troubles we’re having as a country as an excuse to pass their wish list of spending. I think as that grows on people, it makes them more and more outraged.”
With that growing sense of GOP confidence comes ramped-up pushback from President Obama. “In the past few days I’ve heard criticisms of this [stimulus] plan that echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis,” Obama said at the Treasury Department today. “I reject that theory, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change.” Look for Obama and his allies to push the argument that the Republican plan is one-dimensional and insufficient. If the roof is leaking, they’ll say, Republicans prescribe a tax cut. If the car is stalled, they prescribe a tax cut. If the house is on fire, they prescribe a tax cut. Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.
Meanwhile, farther on the left, there’s a sense of urgency — I wouldn’t yet call it panic — that mirrors the growth of Republican confidence. In the past hour, I’ve gotten two emails from liberal groups that give off a whiff of…concern.
“Conservatives Are Beating Us 100 To 1!” was the headline of a mailing from the liberal activist group Campaign for America’s Future. “We’ve gotten word from our progressive friends on Capitol Hill that for every one hundred phone calls to Congress from conservatives trying to obstruct change, there is only one phone call from a citizen demanding passage of President Obama’s economic recovery bill,” the mailing says.
“They’re demanding that billions be cut from a plan that, if anything, is already to small, and that more be diverted to top-end tax cuts,” the note continues. “We can’t allow this partisan posturing in the midst of a national crisis. Progressives need to pick up the phone now to counter the onslaught of calls pouring into the Senate from conservatives.”
Meanwhile, MoveOn.org is asking you to write an “emergency letter to the editor” supporting the stimulus. “Conservative talking points are dominating the media’s coverage, and there’s a lot of misinformation around,” the letter says. “Can you write a letter to the editor of your local paper about how the stimulus will affect real people?” Just to make it easy for you, MoveOn provides talking points of its own, plus a link to its handy letter-to-the-editor website.
When the groups on the left are saying that, you know Republicans have some real momentum at this moment.