New Stimulus Plan Posed to Define Year’s Congressional Debate
For weeks, Republican lawmakers have been pushing for an increase in offshore oil drilling, hoping to use towering fuel costs and Democrats’ historic opposition to the drilling expansion to make the energy debate the defining issue of the congressional campaign season.
Then Lehman Bros. crumpled into bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch was sold out and AIG began teetering at the brink of collapse.
Now, suddenly, the price of gas — which has fallen steadily for months — doesn’t seem so drastic as a flailing Wall Street. Democrats are using the economic turmoil to promote a second economic stimulus package — something GOP leaders, including President George W. Bush, have thus far resisted.
The Democrats’ $50 billion stimulus blueprint includes increased funding for infrastructure projects, Medicaid, low-incoming heating assistance, the ailing auto industry, an extension of unemployment benefits and a much-lobbied extension of renewable fuel tax credits. In short, there’s something for everyone, and Republicans facing tough reelections will have no simple time opposing the legislation.
As Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said today (quoted in The Hill): “I think the Republicans are looking for an opportunity, particularly the ones up for reelection … to do something different from George Bush economic policies.”
One element that might remain the same: Democrats haven’t indicated that they plan to offset the $50 billion.