Stimulus Package: Baucus Between a Rock and Election-Sensitive Republicans

by jhwygirl

No one around here (or there) was happy when we found out that Baucus removed the income caps on the subprime buyout stimulus checks….but Roll Call (subscription required) paints a dire picture of the precarious position that the current bill has in the Senate.

Let’s frame it:
First – Bush, together with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner have warned the senate that any any changes to the House version threatens to derail or delay the package.
Second – Republicans have 23 Senate seats to defend in what is shaping up to be a very hostile election cycle. Given that, several are jockeying to make their marks on the bill when it comes to debate.
Third – the ‘Filibuster Factor’, meaning that the Senate must, if it amends, seal the deal with 60 votes to keep it from going back to the House for conference.

That leaves Baucus with a tough challenge – leave the bill as it is (the House’s version) – which wasn’t going to happen – or strike some compromise that includes stuff that most from both sides can agree to and stave off the filibuster by picking off 9 to 12 GOP Senators.

Then there’s this:

Senate Chief Deputy Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said GOP leaders’ objective in the coming floor debate will be to make sure the finance stimulus package does not get a filibuster-proof 60 votes. He declined to detail how Republicans planned to do that.

Baucus and ranking Senate Finance member Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), working on a Senate compromise package before it even hit their door, originally ironed out a proposal that removed the income cap, but expanded unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks and added stimulus checks (slightly reduced from $600 to $500) to 20 million seniors and $250,000 disabled veterans.

Keeping in mind the vulnerability of Senate Republicans, there was no shortage of people willing to seek politically popular additions. Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) faces a tough re-election and a state with unemployment moving upwards (currently 4.9%). “I haven’t seen the package,” he said, but “I would be open to adding a few targeted things to the package,” including unemployment aid, as the Finance package would do.

Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (Collins also facing re-election) also sought the addition of low-income heating assistance. Democrats are more than happy to oblige on both, with that amendment expected to come from that side of the aisle.

Baucus himself had to face concessions in the Senate-facing-re-election realm: Max initially removed the income cap, which raised the ire of Senate Democrats…while on the other side, Senate Republicans pushed for no cap. That’s how we’ve come to the (ridiculous) $150,000 income cap.

In the end, only two Republicans joined the Grassly-Baucus compromise – Snowe and Senator Gordon Smith (OR).

Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) explains: “If we bring the Finance Committee bill to the floor and start adding to it, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble. But if they bring the Finance Committee bill to the floor and don’t let us amend it, they’ll be in trouble,” he said.

Like I said – Baucus is between one big rock and one hard place.


  1. Nick D

    I don’t quite understand why re-electing Republicans needs to be a priority for Max. Let the president veto the stimulus package, like he has countless other pieces of legislation important to this country. Admitting defeat at the threat of the veto pen doesn’t strike me as leadership.

  2. jhwygirl

    Who would the public blame for a hold-up on a stimulus package? – a Democratic controlled congress?

    I mean, I don’t know – you make a valid point…but in the end, would it seem like it is Democrats “not wanting to work together” or the Republicans?

    The problem, really, are the overwhelming number of partisan Republicans – right-wingers who even stalwart and minimalize moderates within their own party.

    Hell – look at what some are trying to do to McCain right now.

    Those that don’t toe the party line are tossed aside, it seems.

    Thune is running around like a donkey with blinders on (or a robot): must….obey….Bush…. Like Bush is some economic Einstein or something.

  3. Nick D

    The Democratic senate wouldn’t be holding up stimulus… They’d send the house package to the president who would then veto. It’s not Baucus’ job to give Norm Coleman what he wants when the leader of his own party won’t… If the GOP members of the senate want the stimulus package, they’ll send it to the president with a veto-proof majority. Making Baucus a hostage in his own house is embarrassing for all Democrats.

  4. Senate Democrats really wanted the addition of stimulus checks to seniors and veterans – the one’s who, frankly, probably need it most. I don’t think that was wrong.

    But yeah, I’d love to see Bush try and veto any congressional stimulus package that gets sent up. Political suicide. They all need to call his childish do-it-my-way bluff.

  1. 1 Baucus/Democrats Get What They Wanted All Along in the Stimulus Package « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] an initial failed vote on the first compromise package (which, in part, increased the now infamous income cap to $150,000), the Senate overwhelmingly […]

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