A prominent House Democrat told me that the decision, reached before Obama was sworn in, that the stimulus bill should be limited to $825 billion “was made from a political perspective, not for economic reasons.” He said, “I think the economic argument for going over $1 trillion is pretty good, but we feared that $1 trillion would produce sticker shock. We feared it would frighten off the Blue Dogs [conservative Democrats] and that Republicans would attack it.” It was assumed that the number would rise as the stimulus bill went through Congress, since that’s what normally happens with spending bills. Of course the Republicans attacked the lower number anyway.
And even then the Democrats’ majorities weren’t sufficient to give Obama all that he wanted. The stubborn fact remained that the Senate rules require sixty votes to pass anything of importance.
To me, the part I emphasized is the most troubling thing here. Any administration struggles with the fact that it’s hard to get congress to agree to stuff, and everyone needs to reel in their ambitions somewhat. But the White House appears to have undershot what it actually anticipated getting in terms of stimulus, assuming that the number would go up. Instead, thanks to the AMT patch, it in effect went down. That looks like a non-trivial exaggeration.
Meanwhile, to echo Brian Beutler a good first step in filibuster reform would be more precise language:
Also, if we’re stuck with Republican obstructionism, can we at least place a moratorium on declarations that Senate rules require 60 votes? They require no such thing, and the filibusterers shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind the idea that they do.
As a small example, Clarence Thomas was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice by a 52-48 vote. “The Senate rules” didn’t “require” 60 votes. Had the Democrats chosen to mount a filibuster, it would have required 60 votes to break the filibuster. But they didn’t. And nothing in the rules required them to.