Will GOP Sign On To Obama's Stimulus Plan?

President Obama will go to Capitol Hill this week in the hopes of getting Republicans to support his stimulus plan. Republicans want the recovery package tilted more toward tax cuts and are questioning whether government spending programs will revive the economy in the short-term.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We just heard a note there about President Obama's push to change the way Washington does business. Still, there's little support among House Republicans for his economic recovery plan, at least in its current form. Joining us now for some analysis is NPR's Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So what happened to the bipartisanship on this very first, very important measure?

ROBERTS: Well so far, it's not there. Not one Republican voted for this measure in the committee last week. And you just heard Republican leader John Boehner saying that he has big problems with it. And he said that the way it stands right now, he would vote no on it. And John McCain, Barack Obama's opponent, of course, and who has been reaching across the aisle since this Senate convened, also said he would vote no on it the way it is now.

So what they're saying is this is, essentially, for all the bipartisan talk, this is essentially a Democratic bill. Now, Speaker Pelosi argued there are things in this bill that wouldn't be in it without Republican input. She says they could have voted for it based on that. And they say not. Look, they know the president wants to be bipartisan, and they're a little bit like the kid with the new babysitter, who's testing it. Seeing how far they can push the president on this very important piece of legislation.

MONTAGNE: He will be meeting - the president will be meeting with House Republicans this week. Last week, he mentioned to them that, you know, as I - To quote him, he won. Is there any likelihood that he'll persuade the other side to change its position?

ROBERTS: It's possible. He can be very persuasive, but he's also made it clear that he's willing to listen. I mean, you just heard Andrea quoting the famous Bismarck quote on laws and sausages, this is still a work in progress. But when Republicans brought ideas to the White House last week, in that same meeting where he said at one point he was going to reject some because, quote, "I won."

But there were others where he said to the Republican whip, Eric Cantor, he said, this isn't crazy. So I think that, you know, that there are some places where he is willing to go along, willing to listen. He's certainly done that on a number of business tax cuts, or tax credits, for small business. And, you know, he has - he clearly has the upper hand, to put it mildly. Not only did he win, but since then, his poll numbers have only gone up. And the Republican numbers have not. So he can obviously use that.

MONTAGNE: And the Republican leader in the Senate has taken something of a different tone. Mitch McConnell has said Republicans have to be more cooperative, even if it gets them criticism from with in their own party. What do you make of that?

ROBERTS: Well, some of that's the difference between the House and the Senate. You know, what's left of House Republicans at the moment is something of a precious remnant. And they are, you know, from very safe seats. The senators, obviously, all represent whole states, and so they have a lot of Obama supporters in their states.

But, you know, what really struck me in that McConnell speech, was that he said for those who accuse us of compromising, I say what we're doing is cooperating, and the American people want us to cooperate. My question is, what's wrong with compromising? I mean, that is what you're supposed to do in the halls of Congress, is to compromise with each other. But it has become very, very difficult in this poisonous, partisan atmosphere. On both sides it's become very difficult.

And now what you're seeing is, to a certain degree, each side trying to make bipartisanship a partisan issue. You know, I'm being more bipartisan than you are. And that's an interesting dynamic to see play out.

MONTAGNE: Well Cokie, just finally, which party do you think will get more out of this, I'm anti-partisan?

ROBERTS: Well I think in the immediate moment, the Republicans can on this stimulus package because the president wants it to pass quickly. So they have some leverage on that. But that can change any minute. The minute that somebody starts pressing too hard, pushing too far, and Republicans talking about, we're here to support the taxpayer, the taxpayer has to make sure - they have to make sure the taxpayer believes that. So they have to be very careful how far they push, because this whole thing can then start to look partisan, even as they're saying, where's the bipartisanship? A little complicated.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

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