In a sign of growing resistance among Republican lawmakers to his economic recovery plan, President Barack Obama trekked up to Capitol Hill to meet with the minority party in the House and Senate to try to gain their support. While it is clear the President has the votes within his own party to push through the $825 billion package, Mr. Obama is trying to build bipartisan support to demonstrate that there is a national consensus on the steps needed to restore the nation’s economy. In recent days, the White House has met with opposition from Republicans who claim the bill relies too heavily on spending without any evidence that it will result in job growth or restore consumer confidence.
President Obama spent three hours on the Hill yesterday; an unusually long visit by a President with lawmakers. It was a clear sign of the importance the President attaches to winning some Republican support. There is no doubt Mr. Obama understands that his high approval ratings are contingent upon the public seeing some positive movement toward addressing the recession, and that the broader support he can build on the Hill for the plan further insulates him.
In a brief statement following his meeting with the House Republican Caucus, President Obama said, “I am absolutely confident that we can deal with these issues, but the key right now is to make sure that we keep politics to a minimum. There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have, and I respect that. In some cases they may just not be as familiar with what's in the package as I would like. I don't expect a hundred percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people's business right now.” The President’s optimism might be overstated a bit given the fact that the House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has been vocal in criticizing the plan although his Senate colleague, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has suggested the Republican Party could benefit if it could find common ground with the President on the package.
The House is expected to vote on the bill today while the Senate puts final touches on its version. There may be increased pressure to get the legislation passed with the number of job layoffs that were announced by companies the last two days, some 70,000 positions cut with more expected. Pressure will build on lawmakers as the date of the release of the January Employment Situation Summary nears since it is widely expected to rival the half million jobs loss figure recorded in November and December. What is certain is that if January's jobless report shows rising unemployment and more than a half million jobs lost, that even reluctant and skeptical Republicans will be faced with a public demanding some immediate action and relief as the economic crisis hits home for millions of Americans.