Republicans still dislike stimulus

REPUBLICANS STILL DISLIKE STIMULUS…. Barack Obama has prioritized bipartisan support for an economic stimulus package. But as predicted, it’s very difficult to pass a meaningful, effective bill that draws support from congressional Republicans. The president made concessions from the outset — offering tax cuts to garner GOP backing — and wouldn’t you know it, Republicans aren’t satisfied.

Just days after taking office vowing to end the political era of “petty grievances,” President Obama ran into mounting GOP opposition yesterday to an economic stimulus plan that he had hoped would receive broad bipartisan support.

Republicans accused Democrats of abandoning the new president’s pledge, ignoring his call for bipartisan comity and shutting them out of the process by writing the $850 billion legislation. […]

Republicans have a long list of grievances. Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who gave Vice President Biden a 17-page list of spending requests, said he opposes the proposed increase in funding for Pell Grants for college students because it would do little to spur short-term economic growth. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said the plan lacks enough “fast-acting tax relief,” such as a temporary halt to payroll taxes and more relief for businesses. Sen. John Thune (S.D.) said the nearly $1 trillion price tag would add too much to a federal deficit that is already predicted to top $1.2 trillion for 2009.

“The Republican concerns about what’s moving in the House are growing by the day,” Thune said. He dismissed as “very, very ambitious” Obama’s hope of securing a bipartisan majority of 80 votes for the stimulus plan in the Senate, which could consider its version of the legislation next weekend.

Republicans believe they have not been treated as equal partners in the process, and that conservative ideas aren’t being taken seriously. Newsflash: they’re right. What Republicans seem to be missing here is that they shouldn’t be treated as equal partners — they’re a small congressional minority whose economic ideas helped create the mess Democrats are now trying to clean up.

We’re left with the same dynamic that’s existed from the beginning of the process: the Obama administration can pursue a better bill that passes with 60 votes, or a weaker bill that passes with 80. The priority should obviously be the quality of the package.