PAYING A HIGH PRICE — TO GET A LOWER PRICE…. I don’t imagine I’ll ever really understand their motivation, but “centrist” Republicans agreed to support the economic stimulus package after making it worse.

…Obama’s signature tax cut for middle-class Americans was scaled back as part of the deal. Under the new plan, tax credits of up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples would begin to phase out at lower income levels than first proposed, saving the government $2 billion.

The biggest cut, roughly $40 billion in aid to states, was likely to spur a fierce fight in negotiations with the House over the final bill. Many states, hit hard by the recession, face wrenching cuts in services and layoffs of public employees as they struggle to comply with laws requiring them to balance their budgets. […]

In addition to the large cut in state aid, the Senate agreement would cut nearly $20 billion proposed for school construction; $8 billion to refurbish federal buildings and make them more energy efficient; $1 billion for the early childhood program Head Start; and $2 billion from a plan to expand broadband data networks in rural and underserved areas.

Let’s just say Republican moderates use a definition of “wasteful” that’s unrecognizable to the rest of us. (Josh Marshall summarized this nicely: “So Senate Republicans invoked the threat of a filibuster. And the ‘centrist’ group has leveraged that threat to add more tax cuts that won’t accomplish anything and cut out a lot of spending that would.”)

Glenn Thrush has a more detailed list of the many cuts made to satisfy Sens. Collins, Snowe, and Specter.

No one’s sure what’s going to happen when the House and Senate try to reconcile their bills — they’ll carry similar price tags, but allocate funds very differently. GOP delaying tactics make a weekend vote unlikely, and we’ll probably see the bill on the Senate floor on Monday.

Ultimately, I don’t doubt that the stimulus package will have a positive impact, but lawmakers were given a unique opportunity to reshape the economy, and spent a week figuring out how to do less instead of more. It’s been frustrating, and given the scope of the crisis, kind of scary. As publius noted, “The negotiators seemed to be pushing for cuts, not because the cuts achieve any substantive policy objective, but just because the Senators had an ideological aversion to ‘bigness.’ Or something…. From what I can gather, they wanted to cut some stuff just to say that they had cut some stuff.”

And this is what we saw from the responsible Republicans who were at least willing to acknowledge the utility of a government stimulus in the first place.

The adage comparing the process of making legislation and making sausage has never been more apt.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.