January 30th, 2009
05:45 PM ET
4 years 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. Steve (the real one)


    I am trying to follow your thoughts but, I am having a hard trying to understand how Michael Steele is dividing the country. We hav ebeen divided for a while. Secondly President Obama has not brought togetherness to us. No one man can! What the GOP did was the same thing thing the Dems did when they nominated the current President and what America did when they elected him. That is move forward. As a conservative I hope Michael Steele steers the GOP back to it's conservative roots. I don't believe race has anything to do with it, whether he or I agree with the President politcally or not! I actually like the President, I just disagree with his liberal views!

    January 30, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. Stop Mortgaging Our Future

    Now that's what I call true bipartisanship. It's far better than the blind allegience to obama that we've been seeing on his ridiculous spending bill.

    January 30, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  3. alvino

    Maybe Susan Collins did not get the memo from Rush. I hope she is willing to support job growth without the huge corporate tax cuts that do nothing.

    January 30, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  4. Democrat In Nebraska

    The Senator from my state and the Senator from Maine really do get it. Here's hoping the other 98 will listen seriously.

    January 30, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Dave G

    Conservative Republicans favor tax cuts over spending, but that approach won't work right now.

    Normally, tax cuts would work. But today, people are so sacred, they'll just hold on to any tax cut money they get. They're not going to spend it. So this time, we need direct government spending to stimulate the economy.

    But government spending doesn't mean we need to fund every Democratic pet project. I hope these 2 moderate Republican senators can focus the spending down to the core spending that we need.

    And if there are any tax cuts, they should be structured toward lower incomes. These people live more hand-to-mouth, so they are more likely to spend the tax cuts right now.

    January 30, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  6. Angry

    The democrats are making heros of the republicans imagine that.

    With all the worthless pork and coments like "We Won" they are making heros out of the very people who caused the economic disaster in the first place. Un F'in believable.
    I m a democrat at hart but as a CT resident Im voting against Dodd and Liberman.

    How do we get it through thier thick skulls we how do I say this

    you cant pin it all on Bush after all he was a village idiot

    January 30, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  7. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    Sounds like these two Senators have their heads in the right direction. They might also scrub the pork the Iowa Senator wanted for his drug company buddies who want to help people stop smoking. While it is a valid need, I ask you, where is the job creation in this piece of the bill? I certainly hope Senators Nelson and Collins can so something with this peace of crap Nancy Palosi and her scrubby bunch turned out. Something that puts real teeth in the jobs package. WHERE IS THE INFRASTRUCTURE REBUILDING PRESIDENT OBAMA PROMISED US DURING HIS CAMPAIGN? WHERE ARE THE SOLOR AND WIND POWERED ENERGY PLANS? NANCY PALOSI, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF FOR TURNING OUT THIS PIECE OF CRAP AND ASKING WE THE PEOPLE TO SUCK IT UP.... YOU NANCY PALOSI ARE.... FIRED......

    January 30, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  8. Arden

    I tend to agree with Californian,however, I also agree that some of this stimulis package should be used to payoff some of the TARP. I was watching the faces of the Republicans after this sham of a vote and there is no doubt in my mind that they were threatened wihin a hair of their jobs that if they didn't vote no they needed to be afraid. No one can make me believe that every single Republican in congress wanted to vote like everyone else..

    January 30, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  9. TrueIndependent

    The Stepford Family- yes, the House Republicans. If only they had voted 'NO' against Bush and Wall Street .

    Republicans, always putting party before Country.

    January 30, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  10. KLS

    It's time for both sides to stop the bickering and work together for Americans instead of their own party's agenda. United we stand divided we fall.

    January 30, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  11. Bill

    I agree and after all that is done and no Republicans vote for it then the Republicans Party may as well go as the Wig party did.

    January 30, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  12. BB

    Smokers have been hounded and taxed to death for 30 years. Leave them alone. The taxes go to corporations, not health care. And nagging makes them nervous. Tax the fat people that use more of our resources than the skinny smokers.

    January 30, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  13. kayla

    steele dislikes president Obama. only because he wanted to be the first african american president. lol. IN YOUR DREAMS MR. STEELE. IN YOUR DREAMS. YOU ARE NO PRESIDENT OBAMA.

    January 30, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  14. lumberman

    Wow a conservative lib...well we will see what happens.

    January 30, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  15. Tony in Maine

    It is very easy to pick out a program, give it a ridiculous title and mock it. McCain did it during the campaign.

    Beefing up FDA, NIH, USCG port security and improving education will increase employment and stimulate the economy as much as public works projects. Our FAA is terribly undermanned, in addition to building and improving airports, the government should be hiring and training controllers.

    What needs to be dumped is what McConnell, Kyl, Cornyn, Boehner and Cantor are holding out for – 100% tax cuts for their financial base.

    January 30, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  16. Debbie

    This is excellent. Instead of plugging their noses in determination to show the new President "you're not the boss of me", a couple of rational people who sincerely want to make sure this bill works. This is how the system is SUPPOSED TO WORK.

    January 30, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  17. BB

    If the republicans can drag their feet long enough, people will starve to death and the jobs won't be needed.

    Good Job repukies.

    January 30, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  18. Patrick

    I really admire Ben Nelson. We need more conservative democrats like him.

    January 30, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  19. LLT

    gt...it is the career politicians in far right and left that are causing both the "pork" and the urge for even more tax cuts for businesses who will treat it in exactly the same way as the banks.

    The "leaders" in Congress on both sides are there because they have been in Washington the longest and have partisan politics, reelection and old grudges on their minds.

    January 30, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  20. Jim Cox

    I will be interested to see if Sen Nelson cuts any spending from farm bills that come before the senate.

    January 30, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  21. aware

    By all means scrub it! This is not the time for pet pork projects. 😦

    January 30, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  22. Louisa

    I would hope our elected Leaders would Stop and think about how
    they have the gall to spend Taxpayer money.

    Discussing with friends and neighbors it is appalling to see all the Payback give aways on our dime. Thses clowns in Washington
    only think of getting re elected they sure do not feel the pain and
    loss of the American people, Talk is Cheap to them at least.

    Why are we funding ACORN again, Honey Bees ?Sexual deceases ?
    Sod for the mall ?? It goes on and on Tell me How does this create jobs?
    Not All Americans are stupid as you think. Term Limits sure sound better every day, Oh that's right you Senators & Congressman vote them down,why work when you can come in stay forever and get very rich. Something wrong here, must be we are not paying attention
    to where our money goes just listen to sound good nonsence.

    January 30, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  23. arnie

    You need people with jobs to collect taxes and buy things. if you don't have these things you can't pay off anything, National Debt or anything else. So how about getting people back to work first than we worry about the National Debt.

    January 30, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  24. Susan

    Pork or no pork, that is the question. I’m Alaskan and that bridge to nowhere would be a reliable link for the community of Ketchikan Alaska to it’s airport. It is served by a ferry, that’s it, a ferry. I’ve been stuck overnight on that island because the ferry made its last run for the night. By the way…did you know there are no roads in and out of Ketchikan? These people depend on that airport to link to the rest of the country. For all the bad press, it was a crucial project for that community and all Southeast Alaskans who depend on service through Ketchikan.

    I look at the stimulus package and it appears full of pork to me. Realistically, pork is a way to create jobs, provide services, and give the people of the affected community what they need. Any good lawmaker will look to the best interests of the people he represents.

    January 30, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  25. Houston

    Thank Goodness!

    Finally some people who care about our country more than ideology or party. Why can't more people like this actually be in leadership positions.

    These guys represent what America really is and wants.

    January 30, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
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