Here’s the latest from me on yesterday’s circus on the Hill. The House is expected to vote on their $816 billion stimulus package today and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office warned yesterday that the Senate may be in on Saturday debating their $850 billion version – much to the disappointment of senators looking to go home for Superbowl weekend. The Senate could vote as early as next Tuesday which would give Congress nearly two weeks to reconcile the two versions – a conference, I’m told, the Obama folks want to be deeply involved in. Even if Obama ends up getting only a handful or no House GOP votes – he could get more support in the Senate – he can still say he worked with the GOP, took in their ideas and made every effort, which is, in part, what this outreach is all about. Part of it is also a first step in the long process, like turning-an-aircraft-carrier long, of undoing some of the bitter rancor that has paralyzed Washington. As Obama told reporters coming out of the Senate meeting yesterday:
We’re not going to get 100% agreement and we might not even get a 50% agreement but I do think that people appreciate me walking them through my thought process about the bill. I hope that I communicated my sincere desire to get good ideas from everybody. And my attitude is that this is the first major piece of legislation that we’ve been working on on the Hill and that over time some of these habits of consultation and mutual respect will take over. But old habits die hard.
The main thing is to make sure everybody understands how urgent the situation is. That the problems our economy faces are not going to go away easily. We’ve got to deal with them swiftly and seriously and that’s what my administration is committed to doing and that’s not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, that’s an American issue.