February 11, 2009: The Senate and Congress agree on an Economic Stimulus Bill


Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Members of the House and the Senate working on the final version of the stimulus on Wednesday. The fragile consensus, and the president’s agenda, face many tests in coming months.


In Focus: Stats

  • President Obama’s first prime time press conference attracted 49.5 million viewers on Monday night.

    The Headlines…

  • Congress, White House agree on $790B stimulus bill: Moving with lightning speed, the Democratic-controlled Congress and White House agreed Wednesday on a compromise $790 billion economic stimulus bill designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the measure within days. – AP, 2-11-09
  • Obama’s Battle on Stimulus Shows Threats to His Agenda: It is a quick, sweet victory for the new president, and potentially a historic one. The question now is whether the $789 billion economic stimulus plan agreed to by Congressional leaders on Wednesday is the opening act for a more ambitious domestic agenda from President Obama or a harbinger of reduced expectations. – NYT, 2-11-09
  • Stimulus fight gives Obama lessons early: When the first big priority of his presidency was at risk of unraveling last week, Barack Obama went back to the fundamentals that enabled him to win a historic victory in the presidential election…. – USA Today, 2-11-09
  • Louisiana governor to give high-profile GOP response to Obama: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is set to deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s upcoming joint address to Congress, a high-profile slot the party often gives to one of its rising stars. “Gov. Jindal embodies what I have long said: The Republican Party must not be simply the party of ‘opposition,’ but the party of better solutions,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a Wednesday statement. – CNN, 2-11-09
  • McCain announces another run – proves you can campaign forever: No, he hasn’t announced plans for the presidential race in 2012. McCain loves campaigning so much, he’s running earlier. 2010. He wants a fifth term in the US Senate. – Christian Sciene Monitor, 2-11-09
  • Despite Post-Partisan Pledges, Obama Enters ‘Campaign Mode’ to Sell Stimulus: In going over the heads of lawmakers to sell his economic recovery plan to the public, political scholars say the president showed a fierce practical streak. Despite a pledge to bridge the partisan divide in Washington, President Obama left the capital this week to deploy a battle-tested strategy of bypassing Congress and taking his policy proposals to the people. The result was a political scene that more resembled the hard-knuckle presidential campaign than the diplomatic transition period. – Fox news, 2-11-09
  • The Big Winners In Stimulus Compromise: The Upper-Middle Class: Amid all the cutting, however, one group emerged unscathed: the upper-middle class, the not-quite-super-rich, but certainly not on the ropes. Most of these folks, in terms of income and employment, are what could be called the un-needy, a group clearly distinct from those Obama identified as the core target of the legislation. The “compromise” legislation includes $70 billion, or just under 10 percent of the whole package, to be used expressly to take care of these affluent people. –
  • Instead of stimulus, do nothing – seriously: Stimulus is unconstitutional. And history shows that the economy can recover strongly on its own, if politicians stay out of the way. – Christian Science Monitor, 2-9-09



Biden is set to push the stimulus bill in Pennsylvania (Getty Images)

Political Quotes

  • Obama praises news of stimulus deal “Statement on Recovery and Reinvestment Act Agreement”: “I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who came together around a hard-fought compromise that will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs and get our economy back on track. Just today, the CEO of Caterpillar said that if this American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is passed, his company would be able to rehire some of the employees they’ve been forced to lay off. It’s also a plan ] that will provide immediate tax relief to families and businesses, while investing in priorities like health care, education, energy, and infrastructure that will grow our economy once more. I’m grateful to the House Democrats for starting this process, and for members in the House and Senate for moving it along with the urgency that this moment demands.” – CNN, 2-11-09
  • Biden heads back to Pennsylvania to push stimulus: I doubt whether anything this massive, this consequential, this significant, has passed this quickly in any other administration. We’re talking about 100 days, we haven’t even hit 25 days yet.” – CNN, 2-11-09
  • John McCain in an e-mail announcing his intentions for re-election: Being the Republican nominee for President was one of the great honors of my life and an experience I will never forget. Some have wondered, after my hard fought presidential campaign, if I plan to run for re-election to the United States Senate.
    I want you to know that I do intend to seek re-election. The magnitude of the financial crisis that many American families are facing makes it clear to me that I want to continue to serve our country in the Senate.
    The economic challenges currently confronting our nation are immense and unfortunately, the Democrats in Congress propose addressing these challenges through increased spending that wastes billions of taxpayers dollars and saddles our children and grandchildren with a staggering debt. Their proposals will not stimulate economic growth or create jobs. While the leader of the Democratic Party, President Obama, has pledged to change business as usual in Washington and spoken of bipartisanship, I have been saddened to watch as Congressional Democrats try to use their majority to advocate more of the same failed policies and wasteful spending of the past. With so much at stake, now is not the time to step away from my work in the Senate.
    As always, I anticipate a tough re-election challenge. But with your help, we will counter those efforts and put forth an aggressive campaign by registering new voters, reaching out to Democrats, Independents and Republicans, and again earning the support of Hispanic and Native American voters in Arizona.
    I am honored to serve the people of Arizona as their United States Senator. I would be most appreciative of your support of my re-election efforts.


Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Bipartisanship is not always good”: This week, some politicians and pundits will boast of the bipartisan coalition that — under the leadership of Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) — cut the economic recovery legislation by more than $100 billion and moved the bill through the chamber. The legislation might be the first concrete evidence that an influential bipartisan coalition has emerged.
    It is not clear the bill we have will work. Many prominent economists, including Paul Krugman, have argued that the House version of the bill is not big enough to stabilize economic conditions. Instead of relying on this bipartisan coalition, President Barack Obama could have rallied his campaign troops and mounted pressure on wavering senators to support a bolder bill.
  • If the Senate coalition went too far with its cuts, the damage could be twofold. The bill might not stop the economic meltdown Americans are facing. In six months, we could find ourselves with even worse conditions and more government debt. At the same time, Americans would have little tolerance for new proposals for federal intervention. After all, future opponents would say, the financial bailout and the economic recovery bills did not work. The administration and congressional Democrats could find themselves in a political straitjacket just as America is desperate for help. – Politico, 2-11-09
  • Timothy Roberts “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “Both Lincoln and Obama advocated big government and actively believed it could do good,” said Timothy Roberts, professor of American history at Western Illinois University in Moline, Ill. “The size and complexity of the situation facing Obama would have baffled Lincoln, but he would have embraced Obama’s attempt to balance tax cuts — intended to encourage individual initiative and entrepreneurship — and government spending,” Roberts said…. “Critics of Obama, like critics of Lincoln, claim these policies smack of European style socialism,” Roberts said…. “Lincoln was elected by the smallest percentage support of any U.S. president. And at the beginning he was criticized and lampooned unmercifully by foreigners who assumed he was a buffoon,” Roberts said. – Fox News, 2-11-09
  • Alan Kraut “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “The Whig Party — which later became the Republican Party — was very much interested in the government having input into the economy,” said Alan Kraut, professor of American history at American University in Washington, D.C. “Lincoln expanded the government’s role enormously during his presidency,” Kraut said…. “While Lincoln was willing to take a lot of this bold action himself, Obama is trying very hard to work in a spirit of [bipartisanship] and to work cooperatively with the Congress,” said Kraut. – Fox News, 2-11-09
  • Richard Brookhiser “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “Lincoln came into his crises very well-prepared. He had spent six years contending with Stephen Douglas about the expansion of slavery into the territories — which was the major issue at the time. Obama hadn’t been challenged in the same way prior to his election,” said American historian Richard Brookhiser. Fox News, 2-11-09

President Obama at a Virgina construction site with Gov. Tim Kaine

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