Panel on the White House Stimulus Meeting

Panel on the White House Stimulus Meeting

Special Report With Bret Baier - January 23, 2009


OBAMA: I recognize that there are still some differences around the table and between the administration and members of Congress about particular details on the plan. But what I think unifies this group is the recognition that we are experiencing an unprecedented, perhaps, economic crisis that has to be dealt with and dealt with rapidly.

JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: You go through a whole host of issues in this bill that have nothing to do with growing jobs in America and helping people keep their jobs.


BAIER: There you see President Obama while meeting with congressional leader talking about the economic stimulus package, and afterwards House Minority Leader John Boehner reflecting on some real problems with the proposal now on the table.

What about this? Some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of "The Weekly Standard," Juan Williams, Senior Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Charles, the president said he recognizes there are some differences. That may have been putting it mildly.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: There are huge differences of principle. It's not details.

Look, this is one of the worst bills in galactic history. It's not only on the timing of it--as we saw from the Congressional Budget Office, more than half of the infrastructure stuff with the bridges and roads will not be spent until two years hence when the recession will be likely over or coming out of it, and it will only add to inflation, not jobs.

And it's the content of this. We heard earlier in Major's report, a third of a billion for contraception, a billion to states to help them collect child support, nursing training--all this is worthy, but it ain't stimulus.

If you look at what was left behind after last year's stimulus, $160 billion, it didn't have any effect on the economy. It left nothing behind.

This bill has a fifth of a billion for grass at the Jefferson Memorial. FDR left behind the Hoover dam and Eisenhower left behind the interstate highway system. We will leave behind, after spending $1 trillion, a dog run in East Potomac Park.

BAIER: Juan, Leader Boehner referenced $300 million set aside for contraception and prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases today. What about the fact that there are a lot of things in here that there are questions about how they will be effective to the economy?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think, again, it comes back to my mind to something Charles said, which is that there is a principled argument at stake here.

The principled argument is one in which the Obama administration says we've got to deal with infrastructure and needs that have been unmet, not just in terms of the bridges and the roads and the like, but in terms of the needs of the American people. And part of that argument, then, extends to things like contraception, things like social programs.

And I think you're seeing this go overboard in terms of some of the Democratic efforts that are being pursued now in the House, and they are interpreted as pork by Republicans, who say "Wait a second, this is not your Christmas tree, which you're going to hang ornaments on. What we're talking about here is the need for short-term spending that is proven in terms of its stimulative ability." And that's where the problem comes.

Now, the White House, in the form of Peter Orszag, who is the director of the Office of Management and Budget, OMB, has said "Hold on, gentlemen. We promise-we are committed to spending 75 percent of this money in the next two years-75 percent."

That sounds to me like the Obama administration is trying to get it going, and trying to make it clear they are willing to play ball with Republicans.

But what we saw today and what we have seen over the last few days, actually, Bret, is really a partisan split on this package. You look at the House Ways and Means Committee, party line vote, look at House Appropriations, party line vote. I don't know how it is going to go in the Senate, but right now it looks like another party line vote.

Obama wants 80 votes. He wanted consensus. And his argument today at the White House was we all agree that the nation is in economic crisis and we have to act rapidly. But it's not the case he has been able to convince the Democrats or Republicans on the Hill to play together.

BAIER: Fred?

BARNES: Let me unravel the flaws in what Juan said.

Look, Obama can easily get 80 percent. All he has to do is give Republicans a little bit. He doesn't have to give them a lot. They know he won.


They know Democrats control the House and the Senate. But he's the guy for bipartisanship, and he's the guy that wants 80 percent of the vote. He wants this package to come flying out of Washington with the nation being happy about it.

But you can't do that if you stuff Republicans, if you dis them, if you ignore them, if you vote down any proposals that they want to add to the bills. And that's what Democrats have done.

But there is one person who intervene here, who can step in and say, look, Republicans have a couple of pretty good ideas. We like this 20 percent deduction from all income of small businesses. That would really provide some incentive. Or, I like reducing the lowest tax rates from 15 percent to 10 percent and from 10 percent to five percent, any of those things.

And he can get Republicans' to vote for it. But he has to act. He is the guy for bipartisanship, President Obama is, and Democrats on Capitol Hill snub their nose at Republicans. They have been more partisan this year than before--look at the S-chip bill. So, it's really up to Obama.

And this 75 percent stuff--here is what is wrong with this 75 percent over the next 18 months. The only supposedly stimulating, job-creating things is the infrastructure part. When you send $166 billion to the states, that doesn't stimulate anything. That just subsidizes overspending by the states.

And so it's infrastructure stuff that has to get going according to Democrats. It's never worked before. It didn't work in the New Deal and Japan, but at least they claim it's stimulative part.

WILLIAMS: But, Fred, if the states are in fault, it the states can't hire people, if they're having budget shortfalls and they are having to increase taxes at a time when the country is in recession, that's not good. And Obama wants to prevent that.

And let me just say one other thing. Who invited the Republican leadership over to the White House today? That's an example, I think, that Obama is trying.

BARNES: It's a good example. Of course he's trying. But, look, it's one thing to talk to them. It's not bipartisanship if you don't actually give them something substantive. He doesn't have to give them much, but he has to give them something. And he is the only one who can demand it.

BAIER: Charles, a big debate has been over income tax cuts, over payroll tax refunds. Reportedly, according to Major Garrett's reporting, Virginia Republican Eric Cantor was talking about this, and president Obama said that line "I won." Essentially the debate is over here.

KRAUTHAMMER: I thought he once said we are not red states or blue states. We are the United States of America. We are not Republican or Democrat.

Look, he won as the man who reaches across. But here is an example in which he says "I won, you lost. It's my way." He listens, but unless he gives something, it's all a sham.

BAIER: Last word-Juan?

WILLIAM: Well, he has to make a decision.

And the problem, I think, with the Hill is that the Democrats for the longest time feel as if they have been shut out by the Republicans, and they are still acting in a reactionary form.

I think Obama is trying to bring it together, but in this environment, it's very hard to break the partisan gridlock.

Special Report With Bret Baier


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