SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week the U.S. Congress passed a multi-billion-dollar stimulus package and sent it to President Obama. Meanwhile, the Obama administration lost another Cabinet nominee, and a peanut company filed for bankruptcy. Joining us now is NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Dan, thanks for being with us.
DANIEL SCHORR: Sure. Hi, Scott.
SIMON: First, of course, the stimulus package because people have been working on proposing various compromises all through the week, finally got it down to $787 billion. President Obama has said he wanted to make it a major bipartisan effort. In the end, he got mostly votes from his own side of the aisle.
SCHORR: Well, in the end it was not what you could call bipartisan. There was not a single Republican vote for the bill in the House. In the Senate, there were three Republicans, but the three Republicans - Senator Specter, Senator Snowe, Senator Collins - were playing a wonderful little game of their own. They wanted to have it chopped down, and they took the whole bill hostage to be ransomed for a hundred billion dollars, if you want to put it that way. They managed, these three, to get that done. As a result of that, you can see that when the Democrats really need some help on the Republican side, there's a big price to pay, and there were these three Republican senators who are riding very high.
SIMON: What's the effect of passing it with just three Republican votes?
SCHORR: Well, it has a political effect. Everybody's beginning to wonder, when you get up to the next election, especially the election four years from now, who will look good and who will look bad. If this thing doesn't work, the Republicans think they will have an issue. If it does work, then they won't have an issue. And so they're carefully trying to craft their positions so as of now that they're against it, they're all against it because they think it's not going to work. We'll see.
SIMON: Treasury Secretary Geithner announced a plan to bail out the nation's financial system, and then the stock market dropped.
SIMON: What didn't they like about it?
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SCHORR: You know, it was kind of an interesting week where on one hand President Obama had a big success; then on the other hand, on the thing that you just mentioned, they didn't have success, they had a failure. The problem seemed to be both with the stock exchange and with people in Congress, as well. That Geithner, this Treasury secretary, what he did was to outline a concept of public-private cooperation in trying to save the banking system, but it was only a concept. It wasn't a plan. And everybody said, nah, it's too vague. Come and see us when you really have something to talk about.
SIMON: President Obama's nominee for Commerce secretary, Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, took his name out of the running. He cited disagreement over the stimulus package. There was another reason there, too, wasn't there?
SCHORR: That is a fascinating story. That has to do with the Census Bureau, which is preparing for the big census in 2010. That's under the Department of Commerce. If he were the secretary of commerce, he would be in charge of that, except that minority groups and the Black Caucus have objected to having the census come under a Republican conservative because they say that there was an undercount in the census of up to six million in the last census, and that maybe...
SIMON: But that was under the Clinton administration. That was under a Democratic administration.
SCHORR: It was under a Democratic administration, but the Black Caucus went to the White House and said, we can't have a census that may work against us and take away some of our voting rights, so to speak. And the result of that was the White House said, OK, it won't be in the Department of Commerce. We'll take it to the White House. At that point, Senator Gregg says, what? What? The one big thing that the Commerce Department does is to run the census and you're going to take that away? I have a feeling that was the triggering mechanism for him to pull out.
SIMON: Peanut Corporation of America, the company that's at the center of this - the massive peanut product recall because of peanuts tainted with salmonella filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday. The executive, Stewart Parnell, has been what amounts to a recluse.
SCHORR: I'll tell you, I constantly marvel what people will do for money, whether it be a Mr. Bernie Madoff or whether it be a peanut corporation. The idea that you would wittingly send out stuff for people to ingest which you know - because there'd been a test - contains contamination, it's almost mind-blowing to me.
SIMON: We should explain that these are allegations for the moment, nothing's gone to court.
SCHORR: These are allegations, except there have been documents which I've heard quoted which indicate that that really did happen, you know. In China - in China, you do it something like that with milk and the next thing you know you're being threatened with execution. But this isn't China.
SIMON: And finally, elections in Israel. Results came back this week very close. The two principal rival parties say they might try to work out a power-sharing agreement instead of going to the smaller splinter parties. What do you see develop there?
SCHORR: Well, at the moment I see a big mess in a big gridlock. Because Livni's party is only one seat away from the Netanyahu's party. Either of them, if they got support from the other parties, could form a government. It's up to Shimon Perez, the president, who calls somebody and says, I instruct you to form a government if you can.
It's going to be tough doing it. It's going to be very difficult. But generally speaking, there's been a shift to the right in Israel, and there's more anti-Arab sentiment than there had been. And so the question is, what kind of a government can you form that will go into peace negotiations when the public is getting tired of peace negotiations?
SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.
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