It’s time for me to take a moment to give credit where credit is due. A couple of weeks ago, I voiced skepticism that John McCain would provide much, if any, resistance to the stimulus bill – mainly due to him trying to “move forward” in the “spirit of bipartisanship.” I figured it was a no-brainer, considering this is Obama’s biggest battle to date, and with it being so early on in his administration that McCain would want to “smooth the path” for his former rival a little in order to “prove” he wasn’t holding a grudge.
Sen. John McCain took his most direct shot at President Barack Obama since the presidential campaign on Friday morning, using a Senate floor speech to criticize the president for mocking the Republican concerns over the massive economic stimulus package.
In a fiery speech Thursday night before House Democrats, Obama rejected the GOP’s characterization that the stimulus package was merely another spending bill.
“What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point. No, seriously, that’s the point,” Obama said at the retreat in Williamsburg, Va.
On Friday morning, McCain fought back.
“The whole point, Mr. President, is to enact tax cuts and spending measures that truly stimulate the economy,” McCain said. “There are billions and tens of billions of dollars in this bill which will have no effect within three, four, five or more years, or ever. Or ever.”
The back and forth is more reminiscent of the sharp attacks the two men exchanged on the campaign trail rather than Obama’s hope of moving past partisanship in Washington. And it comes as McCain has positioned himself to becoming a leading opponent of the Senate Democratic plan, which may cost more than $920 billion if major cuts are not made.
But McCain targeted an array of programs that he said were not needed in an emergency economic recovery package.
“$50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts — all of us are for the arts,” McCain said. “Tell me how that creates any significant number of jobs? After-school snack program is probably a good idea. Do we really want to spend $726 million on it?”
With Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) recovering from brain cancer and the Minnesota Senate race still unresolved, Democrats have 57 seats and need to keep their caucus unified while pulling support from three GOP senators to pass the bill as soon as Friday evening.
McCain rejected that strategy and said Democrats should not call the measure “bipartisan” if only a handful of Republicans support it.
“You can call it an agreement, but you cannot call it a bipartisan agreement,” McCain said.
Here’s short video clip:
If there’s anything McCain’s been consistent on over the years, it’s being anti-earmark and pork-barrel spending, as well as pro-tax cuts. I should have remembered this before I voiced my skepticism a couple of weeks ago, but at the time it looked like the bill was going to pass without much debate, and I was frustrated.
I gotta say I’m proud of many of our GOP Senators who are following Mc’s lead in not bowing down to the demands of the President. Malkin’s been burning the midnight oil blogging about the latest developments in the Senate including what our GOP Senators are up to, so make sure to tune in to her periodically for updates.
Keep lighting up those phone lines, ya’ll!
Update – 6:39 PM: Via AP: Officials say tentative stimulus deal reached:
WASHINGTON (AP) – Amid stunning new job losses and yet another bank failure, key senators and the White House reached tentative agreement Friday night on an economic stimulus measure at the heart of President Barack Obama’s recovery plan. Two officials said the emerging agreement was for a bill with a $780 billion price tag, but there was no immediate confirmation.
The tentative agreement capped a tense day of back room negotiations in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, sought to attract the support of enough Republicans to give the measure the needed 60-vote majority.
Officials strongly suggested that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s vote would be needed to assure passage. The Massachusetts Democrat, battling a brain tumor, has been in Florida in recent days and has not been in the Capitol since suffering a seizure on Inauguration Day more than two weeks ago. The senator’s office did not comment.
Reid met privately in the Capitol with members of his rank-and-file to present the proposed deal.
At $780 billion, the legislation would be smaller than the measure that cleared the House on a party-line vote last week. It also would mean a sharp cut from the bill that has been the subject of Senate debate for a week. That measure stood at $937 billion.
Stay tuned …