Obama: Paring Back the Christmas Tree

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After prevailing on House Democratic leaders to drop the family-planning provision from the House version of the economic stimulus bill, President Obama has convinced them to drop another provision that was proving to be an easy target for Republican criticism, ridicule and demagoguery: $200 million to spiff up the National Mall.

But as Dan Gerstein notes on Forbes.com, there is only so far Obama can go with the House version.:

My prediction: Obama will wisely turn to the Senate to rescue his rescue package from a partisan breakdown that would undermine his promise of change.

He will not press for any more concessions from House leaders and let them push through their bill this week with only modest Republican support. He’ll take the minor hit he’s certain to get for failing to deliver a consensus on this critical test vote for the sake of intra-party harmony. That’s the signal he sent during Tuesday’s meeting with House Republicans, when he said he would oppose adding more tax cuts to the House bill.

Once that hurdle is cleared, Obama will ramp up his bipartisan negotiations with the Senate on a compromise bill that will preserve his priorities, include more tax cuts (like the ones proposed by Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus) and pare down some of the bureaucratic and social spending that are not essential to Democratic interests or critical to Obama’s long-term investment agenda. Those moves will be enough to defuse the potential for a filibuster and could get upwards of 70 to 80 votes.

The real test will be the process of reconciling the two different bills in conference–and convincing the House Democrats they need to sacrifice some of the pet programs that are hard to justify as part of an emergency rescue plan. Then we’ll see just how strong Obama’s mandate for change really is.

Upwards of 70 votes may be optimistic, but–as Jay Newton-Small notes below–it will be interesting to watch what happens in the Senate.