The Senate Cut $100 Billion Dollars and All Obama Got Were Three Measly Republicans

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Hoping to attract wider support for the stimulus package, the Senate's bipartisan "gang of moderates" worked late into Friday, cutting chunks of spending a few billion dollars at a time. By the time they were done, Democrats had secured enough Republican votes to ensure the bill's passage — but just barely. As it stands right now, with the vote expected to take place tomorrow, only Republicans Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter have signaled their support, meaning the bill will likely squeak by with 61 votes. The result is a compromise that nobody is really happy with — conservatives, by and large, continue to steadfastly oppose the bill, while many liberals feel the $100 billion that was cut was actually pretty important. But the latter group still holds out hope for the conference committee, when the differences in the House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled, resulting in an entirely new and different bill that everyone can be sour about.

• Josh Marshall says the cuts the moderates made "follow no coherent approach to the package — and build up the least effective parts of the package at the expense of the most. They follow a logic of political grandstanding." [Talking Points Memo]

• Paul Krugman claims most of the cuts were "precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump," and consequently the plan is now "weaker and worse." President Obama "got nothing in return for his bipartisan outreach." [NYT]

• Chuck Todd and friends are "just askin'" whether anybody thought that "Obama's aggressive courtship of Republicans" would net "just three Republicans (Collins, Snowe, Specter) out of 219 GOP senators and congressman." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Ezra Klein thinks the "bill hasn't been justified in terms of virtues so much as in terms of abstract numerical positioning," the belief that it's better simply because it's somewhere between both sides of the argument. [American Prospect]

• E.J. Dionne Jr. writes that Obama at least "staved off defeat, and the Senate bill is better than it might have been. A House-Senate conference should fix some of the inequities in the compromise, whose critics can use Obama's own arguments to explain their insistence on a better final product." [WP]

• Tim Fernholz calls the deal "galactically stupid," but holds out hope for "the conference committee, when a select group of senators and representatives will get together to iron out the differences between the two houses' versions of the bill," and that Obama's PR push will pressure a "chagrined Republican or two" to vote for it. [Tapped/American Prospect]

• Jonathan Chait hopes "a conference committee could undo a lot of the damage, and probably bring the price tag up a bit." If that happens, the centrist will still vote for it because they've already achieved their goal: "to establish that they're centrists — important dealmakers who can take whatever bill emerges and make it somewhat less so." [Plank/New Republic]

• Steve Benen believes there are "some opportunities for improvement. We don't know what House-Senate negotiators will produce; we don't know if a White House p.r. initiative will improve the political climate; and we don't know if President Obama will have the opportunity to come back to Congress later this year or next, asking for additional stimulus investment." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Arlen Specter, one of the centrists everyone is railing against, contends that his bill "preserves the job-creating and tax relief goals of President Obama's stimulus plan while cutting less-essential provisions — many of them worthy in themselves — that are better left to the regular appropriations process." [WP]

• Jennifer Rubin thinks Specter could have done more to reduce the bill, and says "it’s fairly clear that it isn’t what it was advertised to be: temporary, targeted, and timely. It is the Democrats’ bill and they will live with its consequences." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Matt Yglesias agrees with Claire McCaskill that the "Senate bill is a lot better than doing nothing." But, he says, "the House bill is a lot better than the Senate bill," and perhaps in conference committee they'll "produce something more like the House bill than the Senate bill." [Think Progress]

• Brad DeLong thinks the cuts will make it likely we see fewer job gains, but optimistically notes that "relative to the alternative of no bill we do boost employment in America a year from now by on [sic] the order of 3 million. That's a very good thing." [Grasping Reality With Both Hands]

• Michael Tomasky posits that it's "the general reflex of the liberal mind (again, including my own) to assume the worst and nod knowingly as it inevitably happens." But in reality, the "stimulus bill, imperfect as it is, does indeed represent an enormous political victory for Obama. For reasons tactical as well as substantive, liberals ought to declare victory and dance on the vast empty tundra that is the Republican present." [Guardian UK]