Revolt of the Liberals?
From The Hill:
Reid indicated on Friday that the Senate will conference with the House but added, “Remember, we have to have this on the president’s desk before the Presidents Day recess.”
Lieberman noted that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel helped iron out the Senate compromise, saying, “He spoke very strongly in favor of it.”
Emanuel, a former House leadership member, appears to have been more of a factor in crafting the Senate bill than the House-passed legislation. Before the House vote, Emanuel invited a group of centrist House Republicans to the White House, but his pitch for the bill fell short.
Since the election, Pelosi has sent signals to Emanuel to respect the boundaries between the executive and legislative branches.
Raising some eyebrows on Capitol Hill, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) last week said on Liberadio that he “got some quiet encouragement from the Obama folks for what I’m doing. They know it’s a messy bill and they wanted a clean bill.” Cooper, who voted against the House bill, later backtracked, saying no one on Obama’s staff encouraged him to vote against the stimulus.
House Democrats expressed frustration with the Senate throughout the 110th Congress, bowing to the Senate’s version of bills on a range of issues, including the Alternative Minimum Tax patch and the $700-billion financial rescue package.
Pelosi has spent some political capital moving the stimulus bill quickly through the House, which triggered complaints from several of her subcommittee chairmen.
Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), a subcommittee chairman on the influential Financial Services Committee, publicly ripped the House stimulus and was one of 11 Democrats to reject the bill on the floor.
At the House Democratic retreat on Saturday morning in Williamsburg, Va., Pelosi suggested lawmakers will focus on the similarities in the two bills “and then get down to the finer points.”
She added, “I am certain that the president will be signing [legislation] before Presidents Day.”
Liberals in the House are already making noise that they might vote against the conference bill if it mirrors the Senate legislation.
Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said last week, “Many of us may not support it in the House" if the Senate makes "so many changes," such as adding more tax breaks and cutting spending provisions, which is what the Senate did.
Compared to the House measure, the Senate bill scales back the subsidy to help cover health insurance for workers who have lost their jobs. The House legislation included $40 billion to subsidize healthcare coverage through the COBRA program. In the Senate compromise, there is roughly $20 billion.
The Senate compromise also pares back education funds substantially from the bill that passed the House. The Senate draft includes $13.9 billion for Pell Grants to help pay for college tuition, while the bill that passed the House seeks $15.6 billion.
In the House, Democrats included $79 billion for fiscal relief to the states, including $39 billion for local school districts and public colleges and universities.
However, the compromise in the Senate nearly halves that amount to $39 billion in fiscal relief, including roughly $27 billion for local school districts and colleges. The Senate compromise also halves to $1 billion the amount of money for the Head Start program.
The Senate bill also cuts $3.5 billion from the House version that seeks $20 billion for nutrition assistance programs.
Looks like conference is gonna be a dilly.