Can The Stimulus Be Passed Without Cuts?

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 12:30

Right now, the Senate is working on a "compromise" economic recovery package. The twenty or so members of the Collins-Nelson gang are working to strip about $100 billion in spending (the exact number remains in flux), of the nearly $600 billion, out the stimulus.

The sad truth is that there simply are not the needed sixty votes to pass the stimulus right now. Of the 99 Senators currently in the Senate, a preliminary whip count I put together a few days ago listed 58 stimulus supporters, five stimulus undecided, one stimulus special case (Judd Gregg, who has since recused himself), and 35 stimulus opponents. However, several problems appeared:

  1. Ted Kennedy will not be available to vote, dropping the number of supporters to 57. Even worse, Kennedy is effectively a "no" vote, since cloture requires three-fifths of all sitting Senators, not three-fifths of Senators who vote. Thus, the number of definite no or non-votes rose to 36.
  2. Judd Gregg recused himself, even though he is still a sitting Senator, effectively making him a "no" vote on cloture. So, the number of definite no or non-votes rose to 37.
  3. One of the stimulus supporters was Susan Collins, and one of the stimulus undecideds was Ben Nelson. The leaders of a gang to cut stimulus spending are clearly not supporters of the bill right now. So, at best, the number of supporters dropped to 56, while the number of undecideds rose to 6. In reality, the number of supporters dropped to 56, while the number of opponents rose to 39.
  4. Remove Olympia Snowe from the supporter list, as she also clearly wants to make cuts, and we are down to 55 Senate supporters, and 40 no votes or non-votes. With 99 sitting Senators and 60 votes needed to pass cloture, 40 opponents is one too many, even if all the undeicdeds break in favor of the stimulus.
So, in summary, lacking any cuts, there do not appear to be enough votes in the Senate for the stimulus to pass a cloture vote.

However, it will also be difficult to find sixty votes for an amendment that will strip funding from the stimulus. No matter how aggravating Democrats in Congress may seem from time to time, it will be difficult to round-up 19 Democratic Senators to vote against education spending and support for local and state governments, the two areas which are currently the focus of the proposed cuts. Even if all 41 Republicans vote for an amendment to strip such funding (not a guarantee), at least 19 Democrats are needed to pass such an amendment (and probably 20, given that Judd Gregg won't be voting). There are only 11-14 Democrats in the Collins-Nelson gang, making 20 votes in favor of such cuts a real stretch. So, while the stimulus currently seems unpassable without cuts, the cuts themselves are also close to unpassable.

This is, as Elana Schor writes, "the Goldilocks problem." Even if the problem is solved later today, the Senate bill still has to be reconciled with the House bill in conference, and then voted on with no amendments allowed. As such, this is not the final hurdle, and the stimulus still faces at least one more major fight if and when it passes the Senate.  

Chris Bowers :: Can The Stimulus Be Passed Without Cuts?

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Can the reconciliation bill (0.00 / 0)
be filibustered?  Am I right in thinking that it can be?

I think so (4.00 / 1)
I'm pretty sure it can.

[ Parent ]
If they follow the same (4.00 / 1)
rules that are used for budget reconcilliation, it appears that the vote is NOT subject to a filibuster.  However, the  budget process appears to be specific.

From the rules on budget reconcilliation:

the Budget Act prevents reconciliation legislation from being filibustered on the Senate floor.

[ Parent ]
No It Cannot Be Filibustered (4.00 / 3)
Plain and simple. The point of the filibuster is to get NO BILL so it can't get to conference.  That is why getting a bill, ANY BILL, to conference (a conference controlled by Democrats) is what is needed.  You can put all the good stuff back in, take out the bad stuff, and send it back for passage.

At that point you probably lose some Republicans, maybe all in both houses, as well as a dozen to 15 Blue Dogs and Ben (DINO) Nelson in the Senate.

BIG FRIGGIN" DEAL. It isn't bi-partisan anymore.  The media will have a field day interviewing endless Republicans who will say Obama has capitulated to the left wing of his party, Nancy Pelosi, yadayadayada.  Who cares. It's done.  On to EFCA and Stem Cell Research.

[ Parent ]
Correction (4.00 / 1)
"A conference report is privileged.  So a Motion To Proceed to its consideration in non-debatable.  The one day and two day rules need not be satisfied prior to the consideration of the conference report."  It is also not amendable. The Senate can move to recommit and other stalling tactics but the classic filibuster is not available on a Motion to Proceed.  

[ Parent ]
The takeaway (0.00 / 0)
from your analysis surely is that the stimulus bill will pass, but with the cuts demanded by the "moderate" Senators.

not necessarily -- there is another source of pressure: the democratic "no" (4.00 / 2)
votes on gang-generated ammendments.  it seems possible from this analysis that one or two of the members of the gang could be convinced to settle for very minor cuts when faced with the prospect of the entire stimulus bill being blocked indefinitely.  

[ Parent ]
Ted Kennedy (4.00 / 4)
This is the most important vote of this time.  I can't see Ted Kennedy effectively voting no if it means cuts in health care and education.  Can we roll him in on a gurney and have him vote?  Strom Thurmond was in worse shape for years and Jim Bunning is probably in worse shape now.

Get Al Franken appointed on a temporary basis also.  That's already being talked about.  Then we need one lousy vote and we can get that from Specter and/or Grassley.

This could be the most dramatic moment in Ted's storied career something akin to Caesar Rodney's ride to cast a vote for the Declaration of Independence (celebrated on the Delaware quarter).  Do it, Ted.  Leave No Senate Vote Behind.

when I lived in CA, they rolled Pete Wilson in on a Gurney (4.00 / 1)
I don't remember what was the cut throat vote back in the 90's but that's one thing I remember about that immigrant bashing son of a bitch

[ Parent ]
Didnt that happen to Clare Engel (4.00 / 1)
with the civil rights act...he had a stroke and was completely paralyzed and they rolled him in to break Thurmond's filibuster.  

[ Parent ]
I saw Robert Byrd last night (4.00 / 2)
he's being pushed about on a wheelchair. If the whip counters realize they need a single vote, I'm sure Kennedy would come.

And I have a hard time believing that Snowe and Collins and Specter would vote against the bill if Kennedy showed up on a gurney to vote. It would be a big story.

[ Parent ]
meanwhile nobody buys cars, or houses or spends (0.00 / 0)
as they wait to find out what 'breaks' they will get from the new legislation.  and meanwhile thousands more Americans are thrown out of work, lose thier house, thier insurance, thier life savings.  For every hour that time is wasted on a spending cut, thousands of American lives are cut in half.

Is it that dire? (4.00 / 1)
It sounds like at least some of the Democrats in the gang are there to minimize the damage from the cuts. Also, with the way the votes on the actual amendments that came up yesterday went, the bill ended up actually getting bigger.

Also, Reid's been talking a pretty bold game about having the votes without the gang's amendment. I think some of those gangsters are gonna vote for the final bill even if they don't get their amendment passed.

The way I imagine it going right now - the gang has to trim back its ambitions to get 60 votes for its amendment (e.g. they'll only get to cut away some periphery stuff like coast guard projects, a few bike paths, etc. and not multiple billions from education and such), they'll declare victory and then the whole bill will pass mostly intact.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

Can the stimulus be chopped into parts (4.00 / 2)
Have the house vote $100 billion to infrastructure under a different bill #, $100 billion to energy development under a different bill #, etc?  Ram through the spending that has 60 votes without it being part of a package.

Also, how hard is it for Reid to make Republicans actually filibuster old school Jimmy Stewart style?  If ever that option existed for Reid, now is the time.

John McCain won't insure children

There will be more "tranches" (0.00 / 0)
Although it's already becoming another overused cliche, I'm pleased with the reintroduction of the word "tranche" to the American lexicon.

This is just round one. There will be more bills down the road... There's gonna be an energy bill, a health care bill, an eduction bill and at least the annual appropriations bill which is going to catch a lot of the miscellaneous projects that have been trimmed from the stimulus. And if the appropriations bill doesn't get another big serving of infrastructure stuff, there could be another bill for that too.

We're still only 17 days in...

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
That's the real beauty here (4.00 / 3)
Everybody assumes that this bill ends all future stimulus spending forever and ever.  It's just the beginning and the Republicans know that. That is why they are fighting so hard.  It's the end of their world as they know it.

Much of this bill is exactly what the Republicans are calling it: a Social Spending wishlist.  Of course it is.  Democrats won.  It is intentionally short on infrastructure because Nancy and Harry and Barack knows that stuff passes faster than grease through a goose.  Everybody votes for pork.

Next month I predict somebody will propose a massive infrastructure only bill.  You know, the old "pork barrel" bills that John McCain hates. They'll all jump on the band wagon.  Put in $25 billion for mass transit. $50 billion for water and sewage repairs.  $50 billion in taxc cuts for solar and wind.  It's coming folks. It's coming.

[ Parent ]
You bet (4.00 / 1)
As much as we're all pitching and moaning here, there's a huge truckload of good stuff in this bill. I mean, when the Collins-Nelson group wants to cut billions from education or whatever, they're not cuts in education, they're just new spending that we're not getting (not that we shouldn't fight for those things).

What do you call hundreds of billions in new spending - outside (and probably in addition to) the usual appropriations process, only 20 days into a new administration?

I call it victory.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Would Snowe, Collins, Specter, Nelson, etc. REALLY obstruct? (4.00 / 1)
I say call them on their bluff. MAKE them vote against cloture and go on record as filibustering the recovery act as the economy continues to hemmorage 500,000 jobs a month. And make them do it over and over again. The cries from back home will become deafening.

At RealClearPolitics, Jay Cost makes a great point about bipartisanship:

The third relevant problem with bipartisanship is that there is a bipartisan solution to most problems - it's just that the public hates it (and President Obama campaigned assiduously against it). That solution is the status quo.


Nate Silver's chart of how the "moderates" have voted on Democratic amendments to EXPAND the stimulus suggests the Maine Senators would have a very hard time voting against the current bill:

I doubt Specter (up for election in 2010) would be willing to filibuster in the end too....

60 votes for budget cuts? (0.00 / 0)
I thought that they only needed 51 votes on an amendment that doesn't add to the deficit. In other words, the 40 Republicans would just need 11 Democrats to vote in favor of these ridiculous Collins/Nelson cuts.

The Dems need to play hardball on this. Obama should call out Collins and Snowe by name. And put serious pressure on the Dems who are thinking of voting for these damn cuts to education and states.

If necessary, Reid should use reconciliation rules to get this thing passed. That way, no filibuster would even be possible. That's how Bush passed his three tax cuts, and that's how Bill Clinton passed the 1993 recovery plan.

As I understand the procedure (4.00 / 3)
the initial Senate vote is subject to filibuster.  Once passed it goes to conference for renconciliation, where a majority of both the Senate and the House conference committee is required.  The reconciliation bill produced out of conference is not subject to filibuster.

This means the makeup of the Senate Conference Committee is going to be as important as hell.

[ Parent ]
The press seems to treat this like a one shot affair (4.00 / 1)
If the stimulus is defeated, the democrats can always come back later after spended a month or so hanging the cratering employment situation here on congressional republicans.  Then do a party line vote to take full credit, with both Franken and Kennedy or his replacement.

The Politics of Bruno S.

oh big surprise (4.00 / 4)
the press would act like this is the end of the Obama Presidency if this is defeated.

[ Parent ]
I still cannot fathom... (0.00 / 0)
What the hell the Democrats in the Collins-Nelson group are thinking.  

The stimulus is supported by a majority of the country, so it clearly isn't something they'll face repercussions for supporting.  There is essentially zero opposition from the business community to the stimulus, from what I can tell, so it's not as if they're being furiously lobbied to vote no.  And unlike the Republicans, they have nothing to gain if the stimulus fails.  

The only conclusion I can come up with is 1/5th of the caucus is really small-government conservatives.  As in, they disagree in principle with preserving public-sector jobs, and want the state and educational budgets to burst so that more can be privatized.  


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