Congress and the Obama administration are crafting what is shaping up to be the single most expensive spending bill in American history, and nobody can agree on whether it will work.
The bill contains a hodge-podge of spending measures and tax cuts aimed at different sectors of the economy, but all that is clear is that the Treasury will be further depleted by up to a trillion dollars.
The estimated cost of $825 billion and counting should presumably deliver an even bigger bang than last fall’s $700 billion financial bailout. But given the limited impact so far of the bailout’s initial $350 billion in righting the economy, there’s plenty of skepticism about whether the latest plan will have much of a positive effect.
That’s assuming lawmakers can even agree on a plan. Democrats and Republicans once again seem to be at loggerheads over the makeup of the package, and whether it should be tilted more toward tax cuts or spending. Nevertheless, the bill is making progress. On Tuesday, both the Senate Finance Committee and the Appropriations Committee approved the Senate version of the bill, and the House is set to vote on its version on Wednesday.
One hitch, however, is that Republicans say that most of their proposals have been ignored so far, despite Democrats’ claims to the contrary. President Obama spent much of his time on Tuesday meeting with Republicans to try to allay their concerns and at least act as a “walking comment box,” as his press secretary put it.
According to Republican congressional leaders, all the progress the bill has made so far should just be interpreted as a first step. The ultimate package is likely to morph further and will probably lean even more toward tax cuts and ax any spending on projects that radio commentators can poke fun at, such as funds for family planning services and spiffing up the National Mall in Washington.
Meanwhile, all the talk of spending the money on “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects seems to be getting shoveled underneath a glut of pet programs from whatever lawmaker can put up the most fuss in front of the cameras.
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