The Republicans who voted for the stimulus bill in the Senate (all three of them)

Economy, Politics, US Economy, US Politics

UPDATE, 14 February: Yesterday, the Senate voted anew on the stimulus bill; this time on the final, unified version of the bill that came out of the conference, where House and Senate leaders hammered out a compromise between the two bills their respective chambers had passed. The breakdown of the vote was almost identical: see The Republican Senators who voted for the stimulus bill, Round II: The final bill.


Less than two weeks ago, I wrote a post on The Democrats who voted against the stimulus bill in the House. Against the House’s version of the stimulus bill, that is. As you might remember, all 177 Republicans in the House voted against it and 11 Democrats joined them, which means that the bill passed by 244 votes to 188.

That vote passed the baton on to the Senate, and thus a new round of wrangling started. Centrist champions Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) fought to cut stuff out of any stimulus bill they’d be asked to pass. Their selection of exclusions made little coherent sense and struck some of the most effective elements of the stimulus package from the Senate bill – all in the name of bipartisanship.

Yesterday the Senate voted on the result, and the vote was, as Ezra describes it nicely, “about as constructively bipartisan as kick in the head”.

Since it’s a very rare news report that links to the roll call, you can find it here:

00061 10-Feb H.R. 1 On Passage of the Bill Passed H.R. 1 as Amended; American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

That’s a vote of 61 to 37. All of three Republicans voted in favour: Snowe, Susan Collins (ME) and Arlen Specter (PA). Judd Gregg, Obama’s new Republican Commerce Secretary, abstained from the vote as promised, but in the Senate an abstention de facto equals a “Nay” vote. Every single Republican from a state South or West from Pittsburgh voted against the bill.

Let’s recall the compromises that were made to make this bill palatable for Senate Republicans:

The biggest cut, roughly $40 billion in aid to states, was likely to spur a fierce fight in negotiations with the House over the final bill. Many states, hit hard by the recession, face wrenching cuts in services and layoffs of public employees as they struggle to comply with laws requiring them to balance their budgets. [..]

In addition to the large cut in state aid, the Senate agreement would cut nearly $20 billion proposed for school construction; $8 billion to refurbish federal buildings and make them more energy efficient; $1 billion for the early childhood program Head Start; and $2 billion from a plan to expand broadband data networks in rural and underserved areas.

I don’t need to go into what these cuts meant, because assorted bloggers already presented the score:

Kevin Drum: Mindless Cuts.

State aid was cut? That’s crazy. Even many of the conservatives I read agree that preventing huge state cutbacks is one of the quickest and most efficient forms of fiscal stimulus. And most of the rest of the spending on this list is infrastructure spending, exactly the thing that conservatives were complaining there was too little of. [T]rading this stuff for a bunch of idiotic car and homebuying subsidies strikes me as unusually mindless, even by U.S. Senate standards.

Noam ScheiberSheer Idiocy

Good to see the moderates in the Senate cut all that wasteful spending out of the stimulus [..]. What a relief that those fat-cats in bankrupt states and crumbling schools won’t be shaking the rest of us down–not this time.

Ezra Klein: Cutting the Stimulus on the Backs of the Ill

[S]ome fairly important public health measures were eliminated from the stimulus when Susan Collins and Ben Nelson worked their centrist magic. The cuts came in comparative medical research, smoking cessation, HIV prevention and testing, diabetes screening and detection, pandemic flu preparedness, health information technology, and much else. So yes, in case you’re wondering, the centrist compromises not only cut jobs and increased the long-term cost of health care, but also ensured the preventable deaths of thousands of people.

Matt YglesiasKrugman: Centrists Eliminated 600,000 Worth of Jobs From Stimulus Package

On her Twitter feed, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill defended the changes to the stimulus package [..]:

Proud we cut over 100 billion out of recov bill. Many Ds don’t like it, but needed to be done. The silly stuff Rs keep talking about is OUT.

[..] Most of the time, the government is spending money in order to accomplish something specific like build an aircraft carrier or give food to a poor family or maintain a national park or run a prison. If you can build that carrier cheaper, you’re saving the taxpayers money. [..] But when you’ve got a substantial output gap and conventional monetary policy can’t pick up the slack, so you decide to try fiscal expansion, then you’re looking at a different situation. Safeguarding taxpayer dollars can’t be the priority when your policy objective is to spend money in order to encourage idle resources to be put to use. In the present circumstances, spending less money just means more unemployment.

How much more? Paul Krugman tries for an estimate:

“Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. [..] My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.”

Stephen SuhThe Face Of Evil

[H]ere’s the fatty, fluffy pork that the heroic Ben Nelson [..] managed to cut out of the stimulus bill:

Total Reductions: $80 billion


Head Start, Education for the Disadvantaged, School improvement, Child Nutrition, Firefighters, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, Prisons, COPS Hiring, Violence Against Women, NASA, NSF, Western Area Power Administration, CDC, Food Stamps


Public Transit $3.4 billion, School Construction $60 billion


Defense operations and procurement, STAG Grants, Brownfields, Additional transportation funding

Your eyes didn’t deceive you; the Pentagon got more money from the people whose ostensible purpose was to cut down the size of the bill.  Children and the poor, women of all socioeconomic status and the first responders publicly idolized by hypocritical politicians get shafted, once again.

Because everyone knows that no one actually works at Head Start, especially not the type of lower to lower-middle class people who are hardest hit by economic downturns.  And everyone knows that helping to make sure kids are healthy doesn’t result in their parents being able to show up for their jobs, and it’s certainly not an incredible investment in the future that will pay better dividends than any other project in the entire damn bill.  Nor is being a firefighter or police officer an actual job – and don’t get me started on the man-hating harridans at domestic violence shelters.. [P]retty much every dollar they nixed would go directly toward a job right the fuck now [..].

I don’t think it’s, as Stephen colourfully put it, that these centrists “hate children, women and the poor” – though it’s certainly true that “they’re stupidly in thrall to patently false right-wing fable”. What’s behind the inanity was better summarised by Ross Douthat and Ezra Klein, who had one of those GMTA moments. The logic is simply this: “if the GOP wants, say, $500 billion in tax cuts, the country clearly needs $400 billion in tax cuts – but not a penny more! And if the Democrats want $900 billion in stimulus, then the best possible policy outcome must be … $800 billion in stimulus!”

There’s no substantive argument about why 800 billion is the magic number (why not 600?) – the sensible solution is simply calculated by splicing off a vanity percentage from whatever is presented. There’s no argument on why these individual elements they cut were bad: they just defined a sum they wanted off, and then proceeded to identify whatever elements weren’t locked in place by powerful enough players so they could get there. There’s no overarching logic to it.

On a more superficial level, a particularly maddening part is the sanctimonious posturing by Nelson c.s. on all of this – neatly laid bare by Matt Yglesias again. They boast about how they “trimmed the fat, fried the bacon, and milked the sacred cows” while preserving funding for the really important stuff like education, infrastructure and assistance for states … when those are exactly the things they actually cut. And big time, too. The hypocrisy is stunning, but since the media love those cost-cutting centrists, and the President needs to be seen as reaching out to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, they will never be inconvenienced about it.

The good news is that even now, nothing has been finalized. There are now two bills, after all – one passed by the Senate and one by the House. And the two differ noticeably – see this side-by-side comparison of the two bills that Ezra passes along. Today the whole thing goes into the Conference Committee, where, Nancy Pelosi promised, the House Dems will fight to restore some of the items Snowe c.s. have cut. (Though Marc Ambinder says it’s all a done deal already, and the resulting bill is actually smaller than either the Senate or the House bill). And then, Ezra points out, “the unified bill [..] still needs to be voted on in both the House and the Senate”. Where the Republicans could still filibuster it if they get Specter and Collins, for example, to abandon it after all. (Hopefully a small chance.)

The measure to which the whole process can be held hostage by less than a handful of Senators like Nelson and Specter is truly depressing. Then again, it need actually not be so. If Harry Reid would be willing to actually make the Republicans filibuster a bill like this if they disapprove that much, instead of retreating as soon as the Republicans even threaten to do so, the Democrats would almost certainly be able to strongarm through better bills than this. Because chances are that people like Snowe and Collins aren’t actually willing to stand up and join a filibuster through the night to stop something like a massive stimulus bill at a time of catastrophic economic news — even if they are totally happy to imply the threat of a filibuster if that’s enough to make the Dems accede to their vanity exercise.



  1. phyllis Brooks  •  Feb 13, 2009 @5:19 pm

    Obama lied and failed to do wha the said. He said no more secrets and yet the Democrats did not let us see what was in the bill or give anyone time to actually read it to know what was in it, before they passed it. They could have gave each one of us a $145,000 dollars to spur the economy. That would have helped, I am sure. I have no respect for lairs as they seem to do this over and over so watch out. The part fo the plaln to bail out morgages of which at leat 5,000,000 belonged to illegal immigrant. It seem our governemnt wants to make sure it helps illegal law breakers more than us.

  2. Tony Scott  •  Feb 18, 2009 @8:00 am

    If you want to understand the real nature of the problem, google the Federal Reserve System and don’t just read what the Fed has to say about the Fed, read the truth. It’s not Federal and it has no reserves. It’s a group of private bankers and this bill allowed our private bankers to send nearly 700 billion to other private bankers that your children will have to repay with interest. Hit this link. Important homework. Do it.

  3. balaji  •  Jul 2, 2010 @8:40 am

    I have no respect for lairs as they seem to do this over and over so watch out. The part fo the plaln to bail out morgages of which at leat 5,000,000 belonged to illegal immigrant.

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