Call

by Brien Jackson

Regarding the Senate’s consideration of the economic stimulus package, WaPo reports:

Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written and said that to gain bipartisan support, they will seek to cut provisions that would not provide an immediate boost to the economy.

That Democrats are talking about concessions makes me believe they really don’t think they have the votes, to which I have just one thing to say; awesome.

No, I haven’t changed my mind on the stimulus package, but this is the best political opportunity ave Congressional Democrats had at any point in the debate. One thing House Republicans had going in their favor was a total inability to actually stop the bill in that chamber. Because of that, they were all able to oppose the bill, without having to deal with any immediate consequences. Senate Republicans don’t have that luxury, as at least 2 of them will have to vote for cloture to keep the bill alive. Because of this dynamic, Senate Democrats should press ahead with a cloture vote, with or without Republican votes. This is the definition of a win-win scenario.

On the one hand, forcing a vote could expose the GOP’s position, and when push comes to shove the camber’s more moderate members may feel forced to support the bill. In this case, you get the bill passed the Senate with some Republican support. On the other hand, if the Senate Republicans actually kill the bill, you get an opportunity to fundamentally reshape the public debate around the bill in the wake of what will almost surely be a dramatic drop in the market following the vote. It does seem that one of the biggest problems Democrats are having at the moment is in conveying the urgency of the moment, particularly in the media. A dramatic, sudden, drop in the market in the wake of the bill’s failure would do more than anything to change that, and really put the matter into some perspective for the talking heads.

This isn’t really a novel strategy, I confess. It’s essentially what happened with the TARP package after the House initially voted against the bill. The effect of the resulting market decline was to create a sharp change in the narrative around the proposal, and a new sense of urgency in passing it. There’s no reason the same dynamic couldn’t hold here, and unlike TARP, the stimulus bill already enjoys a pretty solid level of public support. So if Republicans are actually willing to kill the bill, as opposed to just making noise in the background as it passes, there’s going to be a steep price to be paid in the short-run, which should help Democrats not only on this bill, but on other spending and reform proposals over the next 6-9 months.

So go on, let it fail.

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