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Nobody Gets Everything

February 9th, 2009 . by economistmom

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) explains in today’s Washington Post why he supports the ”stimulus” (and yes, he still calls it that).  He tries to make the case for both immediate action and a “paring down”–versus a “piling on”:

I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason: The country cannot afford not to take action.

The unemployment figures announced Friday, the latest earnings reports and the continuing crisis in banking make it clear that failure to act will leave the United States facing a far deeper crisis in three or six months. By then the cost of action will be much greater — or it may be too late…

The legislation known as the “moderates” bill, hammered out over two days by Sens. Susan Collins, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and myself, preserves the job-creating and tax relief goals of President Obama’s stimulus plan while cutting less-essential provisions — many of them worthy in themselves — that are better left to the regular appropriations process…

[T]his proverbial half a loaf beats no loaf by a mile…

And he even quotes President Kennedy as if to remind his Senate and House colleagues that this is how political “compromise” used to work:

“In politics,” John Kennedy used to say, “nobody gets everything, nobody gets nothing and everybody gets something.” My colleagues and I have tried to balance the concerns of both left and right with the need to act quickly for the sake of our country. The moderates’ compromise, which faces a cloture vote today, is the only bill with a reasonable chance of passage in the Senate.

And sure enough, this evening’s news is that a ”compromise” version of the Senate bill will indeed be the version up for a vote tomorrow (Tuesday).  But it’s even a bit more costly than the House version, and the two versions remain far apart in substance (the Senate version being much heavier on tax cuts and lighter on spending than the House version):

This evening’s vote was on a substitute bill negotiated late last week by a group of Democrats and moderate Republicans. Three Republicans ended up breaking with their party leaders to support the compromise, but that was enough to give the bill’s Democratic backers the 60 votes they needed to cut off debate and avert a filibuster.

The architects of the compromise — notably Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — said they trimmed the stimulus package from more than $900 billion to $780 billion in an effort to attract bipartisan support. But Republicans said that when amendments passed last week were included, the package came in at around $827 billion. They denounced the alternative as still too expensive, unfocused and unlikely to work.

In addition to Collins, two other Republican senators voted for the bill this evening: Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Arlen Specter (Pa.). All Democrats voted in favor of cutting off debate…

So it remains to be seen when the House and Senate work out a “compromise” between them on this package, will they remember that “nobody gets everything”–or will they continue the business-as-usual “piling on”?

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