Thursday, January 29, 2009

Partisan Stimulus

Yesterday evening, the U.S. House voted 244 to 188 in favor of President Obama's economic stimulus plan.

Looking at the roll call in detail, the Republicans closed ranks against the new president. No Republicans voted for the bill, and 11 Democrats joined the Republicans in opposing it.

Of those 11 Democrats, six are from southeastern states, and six were first elected in 2006 or 2008.

As the Democrats have increased their numbers in both houses of Congress since 2006, and have made a modest rebound in the southeast, I've wondered whether that will decrease their ideological solidarity. If it still leaves them with a working majority of 244, as in this vote, that won't be a problem for them. But we'll see whether they're more divided on other planks of the Democratic platform.

The Republican minority in the House will need more than 11 Democratic votes to block any legislation. However, if they can similarly hold their party's caucus together in the Senate, their 41 (maybe 42 eventually, but I doubt it) votes can block any bill that they consider important enough to oppose by filibuster.

One historical note: Bill Clinton ran into similarly solid Republican opposition to his economic plan at the beginning of his presidency. Whether Clinton's tax increases, or a temporary bulge in capital gains tax receipts resulting from the dot-com bubble, were responsible for balanced budgets in the later years of his tenure, is still debated.

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