January 30th, 2009
05:45 PM ET
9 months ago

Centrist senators seek stimulus compromise

 Nelson and Collins are seeking a compromise version of the stimulus bill.
Nelson and Collins are seeking a compromise version of the stimulus bill.

(CNN) - President Obama’s hopes of passing a massive economic stimulus bill next week in the Senate could hinge on the efforts of a bipartisan pair of centrist senators.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, oppose the proposal in its current form and want to slash what they say is wasteful spending from the bill so moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats can vote for it.

“I want to see the president succeed,” Nelson told CNN. “But in this situation I want to make sure the actual package delivers the bang for the buck that we’re hoping it will.”

Related: Senate bracing for a 'hard slog' on stimulus bill

The two senators, known as consensus builders, will spend the weekend scrubbing the nearly $900 billion bill for spending that does not narrowly target job and economic growth.

“I want to draft a whole new approach and I’m guided by the credo: will it help turn the economy around? Will it create jobs?” Collins said.

The senators complain the bill is bogged down with spending for programs that may be worthwhile but that won’t boost the economy in the short term. As examples, Nelson pointed to $1.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health to do comparative health studies and Collins pointed to funding for pandemic flu preparedness and cyber security.

Senate Democratic leaders say they are confident they can get the 60 votes needed to pass the stimulus bill, but acknowledge it can’t be done unless they hold skeptical Democrats and attract some Republicans.

Because there are a handful of senators on each side of the aisle who are believed to be up for grabs, Nelson and Collins think their effort could determine the outcome.

“I want to go through and sort out and scrub it to see those things that are only marginally job creation or job preservation at best and not include those in this bill,” Nelson said. ‘Maybe we can get more bipartisan support if we do something of that sort.”


Filed under: Senate
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Baze

    CENTRIST CENTRIST CENTRIST I love it!!! OH happy day! God bless America!!

    January 30, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  2. gt

    AMERICA FIRST PARTY SECOND ...PLEASE

    January 30, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. Dayahka

    Excellent news. I support Obama, but this bill, at least the pdf version of it I saw earlier this week, stank to high heaven, mainly because it was disjointed, unsystematic, and just a jumble of special interest pork projects. If Collins and others can eliminate that pork and get a bill with some focus, we will be fortunate. She must, however, include money for education in the bill; I think that the main problem with these idiotic bills is not that idiots like Waxman propose them, but that we have the wrong types of people in Congress–we need engineers and systems thinkers.

    January 30, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  4. Jean

    Tne Stimulus Bill should be renamed Pay To Play Bill.

    January 30, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  5. Andre

    I am an Africa America and I feel that the GOP party has made a big mistake by appointing Michael Steele for the GOP spoke person. This is a way the white majority has devised to shift attention form the president which I believe will divide the nation, failing to realize that this well not bring better relationship between democrat and republican. Even though the Democratic Party may not always be right this action will diminish the togetherness and hope that the President has brought to the America people, and when that happen that will not be good for America. It would have been better if they would have found a strong white person to speak in behave of the GOP party. It would have shown that the white GOP majority is still in there by showing resilience and integrity along with establishing a respectable relationship by standing up for their own, which is nothing wrong with that, instead of looking like cowards by putting a back man who they know never liked the President in the first place to represent the party. If there wasn’t a black President Michael Steele probably would never have been picked. This is bad politics and bad for America. I think that this was an unintelligent move. If they wanted a black person they should have made a better chose. Not some one known to dislike the President.

    January 30, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  6. WAW

    Maybe McCain's "Fab14" can join these two. Maybe McCain and Reed could sit in. Maybe we'll see who's blowing party smoke and who is ready to lead for real.

    January 30, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  7. sandee in Portland

    Even though I'm a democrat, I agree with these guys that this particular bill should be only about creating employment and economic growth.

    January 30, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  8. Matt

    Wow...that dude's hair puts Blago's to shame...

    January 30, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  9. greed is not good

    Sounds like a good idea. Trim it down a little further and it should get enough votes.

    January 30, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  10. Californian

    Finally. Centrists who understand the role of government in a free market WHO ARE NOT USING THIS STIMULUS PACKAGE AS AN EXCUSE TO FUND PET PROJECTS. Tax cuts alone aren't going to do the trick (how soon we forget the last administration). But, a Democratic shopping spree isn't going to either.

    Spending focused on job creation, please. With a D-grade infrastructure in need of trillions in repairs, why does the current proposal dedicate less than 10% to those kinds of public works projects? Why are we even talking about sod on the national mall?

    Also, could we hire a manager for this stimulus who actually has a business background, please?

    January 30, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. Rebeckah

    It strikes me how funny this really is....When Republicans held the majority every single spending bill went through..Oh but now they are concerned about spending tax payers money?? How bout the billions of dollars spent by them during the Bush administration, (can you say Iraq? where was the over sight and concern then?

    January 30, 2009 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  12. 228rory

    I agree with this.... I am a dem that doesnt want to see wasteful spending on things that will not is some way or another stimulate the economy in the short or long term. I think funding into research for renewables and addressing the financial hardships families have in regards to healthcare should be major portions of this bill.

    I dont think tax cuts will stimulate anything in our current economic climate. If I get a stimulus check it is going right into the reduction of my personal debt. Interest is a killer.... You know?

    January 30, 2009 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  13. Allen

    Why don't we forget about the so-called "stimulus plan" and, instead, pay off some of our national debt......something that would REALLY help our country. (Of course that would mean some economic sacrifice in the short term............on second thought, what am I saying? We're spoiled Americans. We don't sacrafice.)

    January 30, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  14. Dan, TX

    I'm all for throwing out the pork. But $1.1 Billion for NIH to do comparative health studies, pandemic flu preparedness and cyber security will employ tons of people in the health and national security area and promote the long term growth of the economy while improving human health and our nation's security.

    They admit they are good things to spend money on, but why do they say it won't turn the economy around. How would it be any less good than building highways? You hire people for all kinds of work, how is it not job creation? You mean it only creates jobs for people with college degrees and we don't need those types of jobs?

    January 30, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  15. Eugene

    Let's look at the plan carefully and make it as efficient as possible.

    January 30, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  16. Sarah

    YES! I second Californian.

    January 30, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  17. Dyan

    Obama and the Democrats need to realize that there is nothing they can do or change in the bill that will make Repubicans stop their partisian games.

    January 30, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. Jim

    To Allen: I could not have said it better. We are already in a melt down, so it makes more sense to working on the debt, which in the long run will better serve America.

    This "Stimulus Bill" is nothing but a pork barrel spending bill that will not help short or long term. Our tax dodging Secretary of the Treasury is already looking at the remaining 350B of the original 700B that has done nothing to ease the crunch, at least not in the lives of the general populace. There is talk the additional 350B could multiply, but then what is new. Politicians have never been very good at math.

    January 30, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  19. Alan

    Isn't it ironic that Obama is calling wall street "criminals" for their wastefull spending, but then he turns around and proposes a
    "stimulus" bill that pays for abortions, pays illegals, and has millions for the "arts".

    I am disappointed that he is not living up to his campain hype. I thought for a while that we had elected a real person. Nope – just another empty suit!!

    January 30, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  20. Frank

    They should start by ditching the tax cuts in favor of more infrastructure spending.

    A recent report by Moody's indicated that tax cuts had the lowest effect on economic growth of any form of government expenditure.

    January 30, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  21. Dave G

    This is excellent news. If these two moderate Republican's can just strip out all the pet projects and not get into some kind of idealistic fight about tax cuts vs. spending, then I think this is the best possible scenario.

    January 30, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  22. St Daphne

    I'm not sure who, but someone made the point that "unemployed people, will not benefit from tax cuts." As an ex-resident of Maine, where 2% of the people hold 98% of the wealth (read Bush and Stephen King, et.al.), I believe that it is important for them to step up to the plate and put forth credible proposals/amendents to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act AND have a healthy debate about the merits of them. As a current resident of the state that is experiencing the greatest public discussion (Michigan), they do not want to find themselves on the end of a discussion involving GE [like GM] – nothwithstanding an infusion of cash and confidence from Warren Buffet during the height of the first ECONOMIC BAILOUT, during President Bush's tenure. In other words, there are no RED states and BLUE states. We ALL bleed RED. HELP! Don't act like one of the boys, but, help as the HELP METE is designed to help. Sincerely – St. Daphne

    January 30, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  23. Maggie in NY

    I voted for and support Obama, but I think some of those extras in the bill need to come out. I do think that a lot of programs have importance, such as re-sodding the Mall because of Washington's historical value, its importance as a National Capital, and its tourism industry, but negotiate stuff like that in the regular budget bill and not in this emergency package.

    January 30, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  24. way to go

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally.
    Keep it up. This is the kind of governing we need.

    January 30, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. Texas Teacher

    The republicans will NOT be bi partisan! They still think they are running something other than their mouths! I wish Democrats would treat them exactly the way they always treat Democrats!

    That would be refreshing... instead of courting their approval. Try courting ours.. and we will put the pressure on them that will make them compromise! Seriously....

    January 30, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
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