Momentum against the bail out bill has shifted and Republicans now appear to hold the balance of power in the senate according to the Washington Post:
Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written and said that to gain bipartisan support, they will seek to cut provisions that would not provide an immediate boost to the economy.
The legislation represents the first major test for President Obama and an expanded Democratic Congress, both of which have made economic recovery the cornerstone of their new political mandate. The stimulus package has now tripled from its post-election estimate of about $300 billion, and in recent days lawmakers in both parties have grown wary of the swelling cost.
Moderate Republicans are trying to trim the bill by as much as $200 billion, although Democrats working with those GOP senators have not agreed to a specific figure.
The Senate's first vote on a stimulus amendment, a failed effort yesterday to add more infrastructure spending to the package, signaled the change in course. For weeks, the measure has grown to meet a worsening economic crisis with the largest possible infusion of government cash. Despite warnings of dire consequences if Congress does not act boldly, Republicans have become resolute in their opposition to what they view as runaway and unnecessary spending in the legislation. And as the total in the Senate version climbs to $900 billion, unease also is stirring among moderate Democrats.
That $200 billion cut isn't near enough but it's a good start. What the bill needs is more tax cuts and less pork - something the GOP is promising to deliver. Whether it will be supported at all depends on both the eventual price tag - now at $900 billion and climbing - as well as the GOP's ability to bring tax relief to small and medium sized businesses - the true engines of economic and job growth.
And it would probably be a good idea to get rid of that artificial deadline set by Obama:
Extensive Senate revisions would force lawmakers to work at a frantic pace to meet a self-imposed Feb. 13 deadline for completing a compromise bill with the House, which passed an $819 billion version last week. Obama reiterated his call for urgent action in a meeting Monday night with Democratic leaders and by letter yesterday to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). For now, the Senate bill remains a work in progress. "We're trying to find a way to reach 60" votes, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate's chief vote counter, told reporters. "A number of Democrats have said they want to see changes to the bill before they can vote for it."
In the end, it will probably be a handful of GOP senators who will determine what kind of bill we get.
Clearly, the White House has lost control of the process and is now counting on senate Republicans to bail them out. Those senators should take advantage of their position to trim this monstrosity of pork and target tax cuts to businesses who will create the jobs that will get us out of this tailspin.