The leaks on Capitol Hill over the past day plus are that Barack Obama is thinking very big when it comes to an economic recovery plan, maybe as much as $850 billion or more.
While that may sound like a lot of money (and it is) there are a group of more liberal Democrats who earlier this week called for a $1 trillion plan.
Of course, I wouldn’t expect that much of this will be paid for with offsetting budget cuts or anything.
Which means the federal deficit this year is going to go way up. And I mean, way up.
The strategy on a stimulus will be very interesting. Democrats and Team Obama have talked about getting the plan through the House and Senate so that it is waiting for him at the White House after he takes the oath of office on January 20.
Republicans will be hard pressed to block action, because they will face much larger Democratic majorities and must find some real reasons to vote no, not just political reasons, since Obama will have the early momentum.
But the Obama camp should look back 16 years at Bill Clinton’s first few months to figure out what not to do. Clinton’s ill-fated stimulus bill ran aground in the Senate in April mainly because it was loaded down with pork barrel spending.
Back then, Republicans had just enough votes to maintain a filibuster, as they mainly targeted $2.5 billion in funds that would go to local projects – pork – in the eyes of many.
The warning from history is simple. Don’t load up with parking garages, swimming pools and bicycle paths. If you want to include major infrastructure projects, that’s fine. But not something that doesn’t meet the smell test.
I would also look for more conservative Blue Dog Democrats to try to force some kind of fiscal restraint in this debate.
But while they talk the talk on the budget, for the most part, they have caved at key points in past debates, giving in to the Democratic leaders.
It won’t be much of a surprise if they do the same thing in early 2009. But you never know. Stay tuned.