On Wednesday, when the House voted 244–188 to approve the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 11 Democrats joined with the entire Republican caucus in voting against the bill. Now, as the stimulus debate moves to the Senate, it appears that some Democratic senators are challenging the Obama administration’s stimulus plans as well.
The Washington Post reported this morning that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) “remains undecided about the bill”:
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who remains undecided about the bill, said he opposes money going to research projects at the National Institutes of Health and about $13 billion for Pell grants that help students pay for college. Nelson says the measures are worthy but do not belong in legislation designed to stimulate the economy.
According to Fox News, Nelson convened a meeting in his Senate office today with Senate Republicans and some Democrats who are seeking “common ground on how they can improve the $819 billion economic stimulus bill.” Nelson’s meeting included Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).
In an interview with Fox News after the meeting, Nelson said he didn’t know how many Democrats, let alone Republicans, would vote for the stimulus plan “as it stands today”:
HEMMER: No Republicans voted for this measure in the House. Do you know of any Republicans on the Senate side that will vote yes as it stands today?
NELSON: I don’t know, I don’t even know how many Democrats will vote for it as it stands today because a lot of my colleagues are not decided. They’re undecided on the bill as it is right now. Fortunately, we don’t have to take the vote on it right now. We have an opportunity to make some improvements.
Nelson emphasized to Hemmer that he’s not “as concerned” about the size of the bill, but that some of “the actual ingredients within the program” were only “marginally stimulative.” He added that it was “a good sign” that “additional infrastructure pieces to the program” were being considered.