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Up To Him

President Obama ventured into Capitol Hill to talk to Republicans. But the issue, as even the A.P. has figured out, is “whether the new Democratic president will actually listen to GOP concerns about the amount of spending and the tax approach — and modify his proposal accordingly.”

Minority Leader John Boehner is making clear that happy talk from the President isn’t going to be enough to win GOP support. ABC news reports:

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told Republicans that the $825 billion House version of the bill should not be supported by Republicans, unless major changes are made.  A Boehner press aide told ABC News: “While we certainly appreciate the willingness of the President to come to Capitol Hill, the problem remains with Congressional Democrats who are moving forward with little regard toward improving the bill.  Unless the Speaker agrees to make changes, then congressional Democrats should not count on our support.”

.    .    .

Writing to ABC News from inside the caucus that just wrapped up, this lawmaker says, “The question Republicans are asking is this: “Does the President support everything in the House bill? Contraceptives to ‘stimulate’? Re-sodding the National Mall? NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] funding to lift economy?”

This legislator says the wide spread belief is that Republican support for this bill dwindled after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s exclusive appearance on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”. On Sunday, she defended some of the bill’s spending measures such as hundreds of millions of dollars on contraception, or coupons to help people convert to digital television.

At the meeting, Republicans discussed President Obama’s options to win back GOP House support, with a stimulus bill focused on infrastructure investment and tax relief at the top of their list. If Mr.. Obama can’t convince House Democrats to cut spending, this lawmakers says, “then the President will have less credibility on fiscal responsibility in the future. If he cuts this back, he will have a huge win.”

The Democrats can spin this anyway they wish: The GOP is the “no” party, or the Republicans are trying to sink the new President. The Republicans don’t care about the economy. We’ve heard it all before. (And the Obama spinners in the media will repeat it ad nauseam.) But it really misses the essential issue (as the spin is designed to do, of course). The Republicans can’t be any more clear: unless the bill changes to accommodate some of their key concerns they aren’t supporting it.

And there are good substantive reasons for opposing the bill. Even if you buy the Keynesian premise, the bill simply doesn’t do what the President says he wants from a “stimulus” bill. What it does do is fund a grab bag of traditional Democratic programs and raises the debt — by a lot.

I’m not sure what the Obama team was expecting. Did they really think the GOP would sign on to just anything Pelosi came up with? Or perhaps they overestimated Pelosi’s willingness to stay within the broad confines the President had outlined. Whatever the reasoning for how we got to where we are, it is plain that the President has a choice: cajole House Democrats into modifying the bill to get Republican support or ram home a Democratic-only spend-a-thon. It really is up to him.


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