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The Politics Of Passage
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The Politics Of Passage


The Politics Of Passage
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Back with NPR news analyst Juan Williams. And Juan, with nearly a third of the people in this country thinking we're already in a depression, that's not a psychology that encourages spending, investment, start up of new businesses. What are the different Republican and Democratic approaches to try to resolve that?

WILLIAM: Well, you can see it in the numbers. You just heard John mention that 30 percent think we're in a depression. But you know, if you ask people about this stimulus, overall, 51 percent of Americans who heard about it think the stimulus is a good idea versus 34 percent who think it's a bad idea. And it largely breaks down along party lines with close to 60 percent of Republicans saying it's a bad idea.

What do they say about it when they call it a bad idea? It's pork. Lots of earmarks, unnecessary spending. What do Democrats say? Oh, it's infrastructure we're building up, and it's got to create jobs, which is the bottom line that President Obama offered early this week in his press conference.

SIMON: I don't want to lose sight of the fact that President Obama lost another nominee for Commerce secretary this week, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, and what happened there? Stimulus package was involved but...

WILLIAM: Well, the stimulus package really was, I think, a backdrop because Judd Gregg initially recused himself from voting in the Senate as the nominee for that Cabinet post. But then it came out that he not only was really concerned about the level of spending involved, but concerned about the fact that Commerce oversees the Census - the Census for 2010, and that the White House was saying we're going to oversee the Census. Don't worry about Judd Gregg doing it. Judd Gregg, at one point, had voted to do away with the Commerce Department position, had seen - been seen as a critic of the Census. And the black caucus, Latino caucus and the Congress was very concerned about the Census, having long feared that blacks and Latinos are undercounted, and they wanted to go to a system where they have more estimates taken of people in poor communities, disproportionately minority communities. And that's something that would not have happened under Judd Gregg.

So, he felt, look, if I'm not going to be a player in terms of the economic package - because he doesn't fully believe it - and he's not going to be a player in terms of what's going on the Census, then why put on the uniform?

SIMON: What is your understanding of what the Obama administration has learned from events of the past couple of weeks? There was a lot of concentration on the fact that they were only able to get three Republican votes in the Senate. But on the other hand, they did pass an extraordinary piece of legislation.

WILLIAM: Oh, it's a big accomplishment for President Obama, but it comes at some risk. I think the Republicans say, if it doesn't work, they'll be able to say I told you so, and we spent a lot of money and put future generations in hock.

But what the Obama team has learned from this, Scott, is that they are going out on the trail campaign-style, and no longer going to rely on bipartisanship in terms of getting actual Republican votes. They may want civil discourse, they may want outreach.

This week, for example, President Obama will go out west to Colorado to Arizona. He's going to even take it international and go to Canada. So, they're going to be looking at now moving on to an entitlement fight. They're going to do more in terms of the budget issues we talked about.

This is where he's going. If I can get things done, I don't need Republican votes to get them done. I've got a majority in the House and Senate, and therefore I will be measured by what I have accomplished, and I'm going to do it campaign-style, relying on my popularity.

SIMON: Thanks so much, Juan.

WILLIAM: You're welcome.

SIMON: NPR's Juan Williams.

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