Stimulus 2008: a need for speed

The House passed the bipartisan growth bill (aka the “stimulus bill”) yesterday on an overwhelming 385-35 vote. 93% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans voted aye. That vote is a direct result of the cooperation among Speaker Pelosi, Republican Leader Boehner, and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson on behalf of the President.

The bill now heads to the Senate. Today the President called for quick Senate action:

The temptation is going to be for the Senate to load it up. — We need to get this bill out of the Senate and on my desk so the checks can get in the hands of our consumers and our businesses can be assured of the incentives necessary to make investments.

The Senate Finance Committee is marking up an alternate version of this bill today. There are some in the Senate who have ideas about how they would like to modify the House-passed bill. Various Senators want to:

  • add infrastructure spending
  • add funds to subsidize housing
  • add funds for low-income heating assistance
  • extend unemployment insurance
  • provide tax rebates to seniors
  • eliminate the income cap in the House bill
  • change the business provisions to provide relief to firms that do not invest in 2008

There are many lobbying the Senate this week to add additional provisions to this bill. There are two risks: (1) that the bipartisan agreement in the House is derailed by changes made in the Senate; and (2) that the bill becomes a “Christmas tree”, on which everyone wants to hang an ornament, delaying Senate completion.

At the same time, there is a growing chorus calling for the Senate to quickly take up and pass the House-passed bill without amendment.

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson: “The key here is keeping the deal simple, keeping this simple.” Complexity is our enemy right here. Once you start adding things, it’s a slippery slope, and the process could quickly bog down and screech to a stop here.  I don’t think the Senate is going to want to derail this program. And I don’t think the Amreican people are going to be anything but impatient if we don’t enact this bipartisan agreement quickly.”

“Former [Clinton] Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers testified that the plan — due to pass the House today — was appropriately targeted to achieve its short-term goal. While […]