Dems offer up stimulus money
The deficit has become such a potent issue that the Democrat compromise is too little and too late. It has become almost impossible for Republicans to agree to increase the deficit for anything other than war supplemental spending packages. It suggest where the fights will also be if the GOP retakes control of Congress.
After repeatedly turning back the GOP's efforts to redirect stimulus money to other purposes, Senate Democrats did an about-face this week as they dipped into the Recovery Act funds to try to pay for their own tax breaks and job-spending priorities.
It's the first time Senate Democratic leaders have embraced undoing parts of last year's $862 billion stimulus - though Democrats insisted it wasn't a strategy change, but rather a last-ditch desperation move to try to entice Republicans to support another round of spending.
The move still fell short. Republicans led a successful filibuster to block the bill again Thursday, saying it still added too much to the deficit. But even proposing the cuts marked a turning point in the growing debate over the success of the stimulus, and left the GOP fuming over what they saw as a fiscal double standard.
"It's OK when they do it; it's not OK when we do it," said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican.
The fight broke out over a $110 billion bill to extend popular tax breaks and extend unemployment benefits, Medicaid assistance to states and summer-jobs programs, among other items.
This version was Democratic leaders' third attempt to pass the bill. This time, they agreed to slice the bill's cost in half and added offsets - including the changes to the 2009 stimulus act, to try to win some GOP votes. The economic stimulus plan is the centerpiece of the Obama administration's strategy to fight the economic downturn and rising jobless rates, and its effectiveness has become a matter of fierce partisan debate.
But Republicans objected this week that the revised measure still added $33 billion to the deficit over the next decade, and that Democrats had also included some tax hikes in the package.