February 15, 2009: The Congress and Senate Pass the Economic Stimulus Bill, Obama Signs it into Law on Tuesday


President Obama Delivers Your Weekly Address


In Focus: Stats

  • The Senate cast the final vote, 60-38, hours after the House of Representatives passed an identical bill, 246-183.
  • House Roll Call: House passes economic stimulus: The 246-183 roll call Friday by which the House passed a $787 billion economic stimulus bill.
    Voting yes were 246 Democrats and no Republicans.
    Voting no were seven Democrats and 176 Republicans. – AP, 2-13-09


The Headlines…

  • NYT Op-Classic: Presidents’ Day Edition: Over the years, presidents past, present and future have written for Op-Ed. In honor of the holiday, here are selections from the dozens of their essays that have appeared on the page. – NYT, 2-15-09
  • To Fix Detroit, Obama Is Said to Drop Plan for ‘Car Czar’: President Obama has dropped the idea of appointing a single, powerful “car czar” to oversee the revamping of General Motors and Chrysler and will instead keep the politically delicate task in the hands of his most senior economic advisers, a top administration official said Sunday night. – NYT, 2-15-09
  • White House Says Stimulus Won’t Be a Quick Fix: As President Obama prepares to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill, administration officials sought to temper expectations, warning that the economy has not yet reached bottom and that increased economic activity as a result of the legislation would “take time to show up in the statistics.” – NYT, 2-15-09
  • Illinois GOP leader calls on Sen. Burris to resign: Just as Illinois was moving past the agony and embarrassment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ousting, the fellow Democrat whom Blagojevich appointed to the U.S. Senate was hearing calls for his own resignation Sunday amid allegations he lied to legislators. – AP, 2-15-09
  • McCain cites bad bipartisan start with Obama: Sen. John McCain says President Barack Obama failed to include Republicans in writing the big economic stimulus bill. – AP, 2-15-09
  • Obama’s big victory comes at a cost: President Barack Obama’s crucial victory in getting a $787 billion economic stimulus plan through Congress was achieved quickly, but his hopes of gaining a bipartisan consensus died an early death. The bitter Washington debate over the stimulus plan, which the majority Democrats muscled through both chambers despite nearly unified Republican opposition, has political consequences that boil down to one question: Will it work? – Reuters, 2-15-09
  • For Obama, governing isn’t campaigning For the most part, your can chalk up his shaky debut to the difference between campaigning and governing: Barack Obama made running for president look easy. As a candidate, he was famously steady and cool, and his campaign team was a marvel of internal harmony. “No drama Obama,” they called him. Fixing a broken economy is turning out to require some drama. To win his stimulus plan, Obama had to turn white-hot and warn that the alternative was “catastrophe.” Backstage at the White House, there has been confusion and even discord, evidence that Team Obama might be populated by mortals after all. – LAT, 2-15-09
  • Stimulus bill, foreclosure aid tops Obama agenda: Keeping the economy front and center, President Barack Obama heads west this week to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill and tackle the home mortgage foreclosure crisis. The direct appeals for public support follow scant GOP backing in Congress for his agenda and increasing partisan bickering. – AP, 2-15-09
  • Obama to sign $787 billion stimulus bill Tuesday: Savoring his first big victory in Congress, President Barack Obama on Saturday celebrated the newly passed $787 billion economic stimulus bill as a “major milestone on our road to recovery.” – AP, 2-14-09
  • Democrats muscle huge stimulus through Congress: In a major victory for President Barack Obama, Democrats muscled a huge, $787 billion stimulus bill through Congress late Friday night in hopes of combating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous. – AP, 2-14-09
  • A Smaller, Faster Stimulus Plan, but Still With a Lot of Money: On its way to becoming law, two crucial things happened to President Obama’s economic recovery plan: It got smaller and faster. Smaller in that it was cut to $787 billion from more than $800 billion in early versions in the House and Senate. And faster in that the Congressional Budget Office now projects that 74 percent of the money will be spent by Sept. 30, 2010, compared with 64 percent in the original House bill. – NYT, 2-14-09
  • U.S. Congress sends stimulus bill to Obama: Congress hands President Obama a major legislative victory, approving a $787 billion stimulus bill that aims to rush emergency spending and tax cuts to a nation in the grip of a severe recession. – Reuters, 2-14-09
  • Obama back in Chicago for Valentine’s Day weekend President Barack Obama flies back to Chicago for a Chicago weekend retreat: President Barack Obama returned to Chicago Friday, making his first trip home since his inauguration and ending a turbulent week in which he dealt with partisan bickering over his massive economic stimulus package. – Chicago Tribune, 2-13-09
  • White House provides plane to senator for key stimulus vote: The White House has provided the use of a government airplane to a key Democratic senator Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in order to ensure the availability of what may prove to be the deciding 60th vote in favor of the $787 billion economic stimulus package. – CNN, 2-13-09
  • DeFazio joins Republicans in saying ‘no’ on stimulus Economy – The bill is too full of tax cuts, says the Democrat, one of a handful to break ranks: With the nation’s economy hanging in the balance, Oregon’s delegation broke along party lines, with one major exception, Friday as Congress approved a $787 billion spending and tax plan. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., voted against the package, saying it had too many tax cuts and not enough direct spending. – Oregan Live, 2-14-09
  • Specter, a Fulcrum of the Stimulus Bill, Pulls Off a Coup for Health Money: Even lobbyists are stunned by the coup Mr. Specter pulled off this week. In return for providing one of only three Republican votes in the Senate for the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, he was able to secure a 34 percent increase in the health agency’s budget — to $39 billion from $29 billion. – NYT, 2-13-09
  • Obama to unveil foreclosure plan, big lenders wait: U.S. President Barack Obama will unveil a plan to stem home foreclosures on Wednesday, a spokesman said, and major U.S. lenders said they had stopped foreclosing until details of the program have been firmed up. – Reusters, 2-13-09
  • Clinton urges NKorea against ‘provocative’ actions: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her first major policy speech, urged North Korea Friday not to take any “provocative” actions that could undermine peace efforts. Amid press reports that North Korea might be preparing a long-range missile test, Clinton pledged to hold the communist regime to its commitments to give up its nuclear programs in return for international aid and political concessions. – AP, 2-13-09
  • Gregg’s Withdrawal Stirs Speculation Over Obama’s Census Plan: New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg cited differences with the Obama administration over the economic stimulus bill and the census for ending his bid as commerce secretary, raising questions about which factor played a bigger role in his decision. – Fox News, 2-13-09
  • Did President Obama Get Crossed Up by Head of Company He Visited?: President Obama said during an appearance at the Caterpillar tractor factory in East Peoria, Illinois, that the company CEO had promised in the Peoria Journal Star: “If Congress passes our (stimulus) plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off.”
    But after the president left, Caterpillar chief Jim Owens said there actually would be more layoffs coming — in addition to the 22,000 already expected: “We’ll probably have more layoffs before we start hiring again. We don’t want false expectations. If we sign a stimulus bill, that doesn’t mean we’ll start hiring right away.”
    Owens back-tracked today, saying the passage of stimulus packages could — over time — lead to the recall of some employees laid off during this downturn. – Fox News, 2-13-09


Political Quotes

download .mp4 | also available here| audio

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION, February 14, 2009: This week, I spent some time with Americans across the country who are hurting because of our economic crisis. People closing the businesses they scrimped and saved to start. Families losing the homes that were their stake in the American Dream. Folks who have given up trying to get ahead, and given in to the stark reality of just trying to get by.
    They’ve been looking to those they sent to Washington for some hope at a time when they need it most.
    This morning, I’m pleased to say that after a lively debate full of healthy difference of opinion, we have delivered real and tangible progress for the American people.
    Congress has passed my economic recovery plan – an ambitious plan at a time we badly need it. It will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, ignite spending by business and consumers alike, and lay a new foundation for our lasting economic growth and prosperity.
    This is a major milestone on our road to recovery, and I want to thank the Members of Congress who came together in common purpose to make it happen. Because they did, I will sign this legislation into law shortly, and we’ll begin making the immediate investments necessary to put people back to work doing the work America needs done….
    Now, some fear we won’t be able to effectively implement a plan of this size and scope, and I understand their skepticism. Washington hasn’t set a very good example in recent years. And with so much on the line, it’s time to begin doing things differently.
    That’s why our goal must be to spend these precious dollars with unprecedented accountability, responsibility, and transparency. I’ve tasked my cabinet and staff to set up the kind of management, oversight, and disclosure that will help ensure that, and I will challenge state and local governments to do the same….

    And in the weeks ahead, I will submit a proposal for the federal budget that will begin to restore the discipline these challenging times demand. Our debt has doubled over the past eight years, and we’ve inherited a trillion- dollar deficit – which we must add to in the short term in order to jumpstart our sick economy. But our long- term economic growth demands that we tame our burgeoning federal deficit; that we invest in the things we need, and dispense with the things we don’t. This is a challenging agenda, but one we can and will achieve.
    This morning, I’m reminded of words President Kennedy spoke in another time of uncertainty. “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.”
    America, we will prove equal to this task. It will take time, and it will take effort, but working together, we will turn this crisis into opportunity and emerge from our painful present into a brighter future. After a week spent with the fundamentally decent men and women of this nation, I have never been more certain of that. – WH Blog, 2-14-09

  • Clinton urges NKorea against ‘provocative’ actions: “We will need to work together to address the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia: North Korea’s nuclear program…. I will assure our allies in Japan that we have not forgotten the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and I will meet with some of those families in Tokyo next week…. Climate change is not just an environmental nor an energy issue, but also has implications for our health, our economies and our security…. We believe we have an opportunity to move these discussions forward. But it is incumbent on North Korea to avoid any provocative action and unhelpful rhetoric toward South Korea…. If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula’s long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people. – AP, 2-13-09
  • McCain says Obama needs to work on bipartisanship: “I think that the majority of people understand that this was generational theft. I hope they’ve learned a lesson. I hope that they will reverse course, and sit down, negotiate from the beginning, so you’re in on the takeoff, so you can be in on the landing.” – Reuters, 2-13-09
  • Gregg says he couldn’t support Obama 100 percent: Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said Friday that he pulled out of the job of commerce secretary after realizing that “I’m just going to be a little too conservative” for President Barack Obama’s administration.
    If you’re going to be on a football team, “you’ve got to pull out and block on every play, you can’t do it on every other play,” the senator said.
    “I didn’t feel comfortable going forward because of my individuality, for lack of a better term,” Gregg said during an appearance Friday morning on CNBC. – AP, 2-13-09


Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “The recovery plan: A national jolt to economy”: “The stakes are so high now, this is such a big bill, average Americans are following it,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s become a bill that is an argument about what government can or can’t do. “If there is no effect and in six months we are talking about the same economy or a worse economy, I think it would be a devastating blow to the president, Democrats, and to liberal claims about what government can do.”….
    “There are seeds in this bill for long-term change,” says Zelizer. “There are things that can develop out of the research that can change our lives.” – AP, 2-14-09
  • Kenneth C. Davis “The recovery plan: A national jolt to economy”: “We’re not reinventing government,” said historian Kenneth C. Davis, author of the best-selling “Don’t Know Much About” series. “We’re modifying things that exist.”
    “It was a transformation of society in a way that hadn’t been done since the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery,” Davis said. AP, 2-14-09
  • Larry Sabato “Despite Obama’s successes, some promises go unmet”: “Clearly, the White House has not been firing on all cylinders but it’s only been three weeks,” said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. “A new engine needs a test period.” – Reuters, 2-14-09
  • Gil Troy “Is Obamania Stopping Us From Questioning Obama’s Competence?”: Wow, the descent from “Yes We Can” to “I screwed up” has been rapid – and unnerving. It hurts me to write this post. Like the millions who were in Washington on Inauguration Day, and the billions who watched around the world, I want Barack Obama to succeed, America needs Obama to succeed. But as American patriots – and as historians – we cannot be so blinded by our hopes and his charms that we overlook the truth. Obama’s Keystone Kops Cabinet farce would be funny if it were not so tragic. His utter failure to put together an effective team without getting so much egg on his face plays to one of my greatest fears about Obama. As an academic who has never been an administrator (beyond one year as department chair), I wondered how he, with only minimally more administrative experience, could take on one of the most complicated executive jobs in history. So far, the results are depressing….
    Careful analyses of the 2008 presidential campaign will discover a systematic bias in favor of Obama. His story was fresher, more compelling, and thus less scrutinized than Hillary Clinton’s, John McCain’s, or the other also-rans. Even some journalists have admitted in retrospect that many reporters liked Obama, loved the idea of Obama, and frequently gave him a free pass.
    Still, there may also be a more benign explanation. The financial meltdown has sobered Americans – and reporters. Barack Obama’s call for a new, more constructive politics have resonated. This really is not the time for the kind of partisan, “gotcha” bickering that has marred our politics for so long.
    All this makes Obama’s repeated missteps so disturbing. The stakes are too high for amateur hour. Obama needs to explain why his personnel process has been so spectacularly incompetent, what he is going to do to fix it, and what he has learned from this experience. There is a lot of goodwill and desperation out there, both of which Obama has been able to tap effectively. But rather than just talking beautifully, he must start governing competently. – HNN, 2-13-09
  • Tevi Troy “What Was Judd Gregg Thinking?”: The real question about Judd Gregg is not why he pulled out, but why President Obama picked him in the first place, and why Gregg accepted the offer.
    Cabinet members from the non-governing party serving in the Cabinet often cause problems for themselves, as well as for the presidents they serve. In this case, it was unclear why Obama needed a third Republican in his Cabinet, in addition to Gates at Defense and LaHood at Transportation.
    And of these three Departments, Commerce probably is the most directly involved in the key issues on which the Democrats and Republicans diverge — especially the economy, immigration, and trade.
    In a short time, it became clear that there were going to be significant policy differences between Gregg and the administration: on the stimulus package, on who would run the Census, and to what extent Gregg would have a role in economic policy-making. Down the road, Gregg’s position as a staunch free trader would likely have caused even more problems, with both the administration and the Democratic Congress.
    Gregg is also a partisan Republican — he served as the debate foil for President Bush in the 2004 re-election campaign. Once he insisted on a Republican replacement in the Senate, he took away the administration’s main reason for having him. When the administration made noises about taking away the Census, Gregg must have seen that he would have been far more of a figurehead than a policy shaper. – Fox Forum, 2-13-09

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

At the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., in 1991, Mr. Reagan was joined by President Bush and former Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter.

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