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Panel on the Senate's Stimulus Package

Panel on the Senate's Stimulus Package

Special Report With Bret Baier - February 4, 2009

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Failure to act and act now will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession, a less robust recovery, and a more uncertain future.

SEN. JIM DEMINT, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Every day the support for it is declining. We now have a chance to stop this bill and to replace it with a real economic stimulus plan that will protect and create jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: There you see President Obama and Republican Senator Jim DeMint talking about the economic stimulus plan that continues to grow in the Senate.

Here's what we know, the numbers now--on the House side it started at $819 billion. The Senate started $888 billion, but they added $11 billion for car buying, $6.5 billion for research. It's now $905 billion.

However, just a few moments ago, they passed an amendment giving a tax break of up to $15,000 to homebuyers. That would add another $20 billion. It continues to grow at this point.

We're back with our panel. Mort, do we know how big this will get?

KONDRACKE: Well, as you say, it keeps growing and growing and growing, and I don't see anybody whacking it.

Susan Collins was down at the White House today arguing that it should be $650 billion, and the president said no, $650 billion won't do it. It's got to be a big bill.

And her colleague Olympia Snowe has been arguing that Obama has to get in there and scrub this bill and eliminate all the trash that's in it.

And he's claiming that he has been eliminating trash, but that's not true. He hasn't. The only trash he has eliminated is a couple of items in the House bill.

He has got to get in there and, one, he has got to defend this bill better. That statement that I have got to have this bill, jobs are going to be lost, and that kind of thing, there is nobody besides him really defending the contents of the bill. And its popularity is going down, down, down.

And the second thing is that he has got to convince his Democratic colleagues to shed some of the stuff that is making this an object of derision.

LIASSON: I think, number one, he is telling the Democrats they are going to have to do that. I think he will weigh in more, especially when the House and Senate meet in a conference committee.

And right now this bill is going through an open process in the Senate. Amendments are being brought to the floor and they are being voted on. And so far I don't think any of them have been filibustered.

And look at the ones that are passing. Tax breaks for homebuyers, tax breaks for car buyers. This bill is slowly but surely, I think, getting to be more like a package that could attract Republican support.

And, yes, there is a lot of underbrush that is going to have to be cleared out, and the White House, at least what I'm hearing, intends to do that in conference.

Now, in terms of the size of it, I think that is a whole different matter. I think you're hearing a chorus of economists from the left and right saying this needs to be as big as possible.

BARNES: That's the problem, of course. It's too big.

Mort made a very good point. Obama is the only one defending it. How many Democratic senators have come on cable news in the last week or two to defend it? I can't think of any.

Now, maybe there have been a few, because they are embarrassed by it.

Mara, I'm afraid you haven't talked to any Republican senators. I think there is no conceivable way that this bill can be changed enough by President Obama or anybody that very many Republicans are going to vote for it in the Senate. They just aren't. It's going to be huge, way too big, it's not going to be stimulative.

And the amazing thing is that we have a very, very popular president who says it would be a catastrophe if this thing isn't passed right away. And yet people like Olympia Snowe aren't even for it yet. If he can't get Olympia Snowe, then this bill is really in trouble.

BAIER: Quickly, does he make the deadline--February 16, 17? No, yes?

BARNES: I don't think it matters, but he probably will. They will pass a bad bill.

LIASSON: Yes.

KONDRACKE: Yes.

Special Report With Bret Baier

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