Senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley announced the creation of a bipartisan stimulus bill for immediate consideration, with heavy emphasis on “bipartisan” and light emphasis on “jobs.” The word “bipartisan” keeps coming up, which will likely prove true; the Democrats could have gotten bipartisan support for the first stimulus package if they had allowed Republicans a substantive role in the process of creating it. This effort shows that the Senate Democrats, at least, are not going to make 2009’s mistake again.
The bill’s particulars on job creation are already well known, but the bill has some extra language that may signal an end to ObamaCare, depending on the timing (emphasis mine):
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted to pass a jobs bill before Congress left for recess on Friday. But two punishing blizzards made it difficult to schedule votes for this week.
The Finance Committee agreement, however, may be the breakthrough the Reid needs if he wants a vote after next week’s President’s Day recess.
The bill includes an infusion of funds into the Highway Trust Fund, the so-called doc fix for Medicare reimbursements, and an extension of unemployment insurance and other benefits for out of work people.
It also includes several provisions outside the panel’s jurisdiction, like a reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, Patriot Act, the national flood insurance program, and $1.5 billion in agriculture disaster assistance.
The Patriot Act extension addition looks like a protection plan for Obama against the Left. If the Senate passed that on its own, it would open yet another rift with that wing of the party, on top of the problems Obama created with his apparent endorsement of bonuses at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan earlier this week, and the loss of the public option in the ObamaCare bill. Obama certainly doesn’t need to take the blame for another surrender from his campaign positions, although if Senate Democrats back this amendment, it may well still have the same effect on the Left’s enthusiasm for the midterm elections.
However, the inclusion of the “doctor fix” will be significant to the ObamaCare debate if Congress rushes this stimulus package to the White House. It will force the CBO to rescore the Senate bill before the vote in the House — and the doctor fix puts ObamaCare firmly in the position of adding to the deficit, even in the short term. The exposure of that will almost certainly force some House Democrats to oppose the Senate version, which means that Pelosi will have deep trouble in getting the bill out — especially with the other problems in the Senate bill, such as the abortion language and the Cadillac tax, as well as the lack of a public option.
Keep an eye on the timing. Pelosi may have to delay the stimulus bill in order to pass ObamaCare to get around the doc-fix costing, which will put the Democrats once again in the position of prioritizing their hobby-horse issue ahead of the crisis in unemployment. That’s not the “hard pivot” Obama promised, and voters demanded.