The Bolt to the Blaine House ’10 – Peter Mills (R)

(Cross-Posted @ Augusta Insider)

State Senator Peter Mills has formally announced his run for governor. The speculators can move on to other possible hopefuls, as there are many.

Pine Tree Politics has released a statement from Senator Mills on his run:

I am running for Governor with a plan to fix state government and rebuild Maine’s economy. Throughout my 15 years of service in the state legislature I’ve sounded the fiscal alarm that we are now hearing loud and clear. Our state spends more than it can afford and gets poor value for that dollar. The recession has made this frighteningly obvious. Now more than ever we need an accountable government, one that measures the results of the services it delivers.

Mills goes on to outline what he views as Maine’s problems and his solutions. What Mills outlines in his speech can also be viewed in his “plan” featured on his new website.

There are a few things that set Peter Mills apart from the other Republican gubernatorial candidates. Perhaps the most obvious is Mills’ legislative experience. While the three other GOP candidates have business backgrounds, Mills has been in the Maine Legislature since 1994. Mills is also the only candidate to have run for governor before: He lost to fellow State Senator Chandler Woodcock in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary by only 3.4%. The lessons learned from Mills’ extensive campaign experience and his work in the legislature will undoubtedly shape his run. “Things have deteriorated in the last four years,” Mills said in an interview. “Most of the things that I pointed to [in 2006] have gotten worse, and part of that is the economy and part of that is the state.”

Since Senator Mills has been in the legislature, we have the advantage of the early use of Project Vote Smart (for other candidates, we’ll just have to wait until they fill out the Vote Smart survey). Using Vote Smart we can look beyond the speeches and soundbites to interest group ratings and legislative votes grouped by category. Mills’ social ratings on Vote Smart vary. Planned Parenthood has given Mills consistently high rantings. The NRA has also consistently given Mills an “A”. The Maine Education Association, Maine People’s Alliance, and League of Conservation Voters’ ratings have varied over Mills’ legislative career. On the economic side of things Maine AFL-CIO’s ratings went from low to high over Mills’ legislative career, while Mills’ ratings from business organizations such as the Maine Economic Research Institute and the National Federation for Independent Business have become more positive.

Senator Mills’ Vote Smart ratings would place him center or center left socially and to the right fiscally. As Pine Tree Politics has noted, recent votes and actions by Senator Mills may point to another conclusion. Mills’ support for recent tax reform legislation and healthcare reform point to a shift to the left. However, when his whole voting record is viewed, the vote for tax reform seems more like an outlier on the fiscal conservative test. Since 2006 Mills has voted right on many issues. Mills voted against the 2006 minimum wage increase and teacher minimum wage increase . Mills voted against the recent alcohol and soda tax. If Mills can keep focus off his vote for the LD 1088 tax reforms, or put a positive spin on it, his recent record should speak for itself. Mills should be able to convince voters that he is still the same fiscal conservative he once was.

Mills also opposed expansion of Dirigo Health in 2006 and earlier this year. Indeed, Mills has consistently opposed Dirigo, which makes his appearance at the healthcare reform rally all the more interesting. On education, Senator Mills voted against the citizen-initiated repeal of school consolidation and for charter schools.

Peter Mills’ website layout is not terribly flashy, but it is intuitive. Pine Tree Politics mentioned this earlier, but it bares repeating: What social networking options does Mills offer? Well you can join his Facebook page…or you can join his Facebook page. In this age of instant connection through the internet, that is just not enough. Nearly all of the candidates so far, Republican or otherwise, have not only a Facebook presence, but are also on several other social networking sites, from Twitter to LinkedIn to YouTube. In a sparsely populated state like Maine, these new media tools allow candidates to reach everyone from Kittery to Fort Kent in an instant. Not maintaining a presence on these services when your opponents do could be a serious misstep. As I’ve said before, I’d be surprised if candidates neglected any corner of the internet they could spread their message to. I’m sure Senator Mills will branch out as the campaign progresses.

I have examined several candidate’s website statements on how they would address certain issues in Maine. Mills’ “Plan” differs from just about everything I’ve read so far in that he takes a direct approach with his platform: “Here is a problem. Here is the solution”. Mills presents the problems facing Maine and his solutions briefly and clearly. Mills has presented his platform more effectively than any candidate so far. In our soundbite world, Mills and Twitter could be a match made in Heaven.

The Plan itself is divided into two sections, “Fix the State” and “Rebuild Maine”. The contents of Fix the State reinforce Mills’ recently challenged reputation as a fiscal conservative. Mills advocates accountability in in Maine’s budget, health care, human services and education. Reducing Medicade abuse, cutting duplicate public works services, and pay-as-you-go state budgets are key to Mills’ plan. Even though Mills appeared at the recent health care rally, he advocates something less liberal than what we’ve seen from Washington as of late. Senator Mills wishes to revive a competitive insurance market in Maine, quite distant from a lot of what is being talked about in health care lately. However, Mills does recommend expanding some forms of public health including health clinics in schools, rural health centers with sliding scale fees, and nutrition and health education. Though this may be too liberal for some, Mills’ position on health care is sure to grab the attention of moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats, and many Independents.

The “Rebuilding Maine” section focuses on the economy. As anyone who has driven in Maine can clearly see, our roads are a mess. Beyond the normal wear and tear of harsh winters, many roads and bridges are in a horrible state of disrepair. Cell and broadband coverage are lagging as well. In a state as rural as Maine, lacking in those areas hurts. Mills recognizes these issues, pushing for a comprehensive plan to bring our roads up to par and eliminate cell phone and broadband gaps within five years. Ambitious, but necessary. How can Maine expect to attract business if we can’t even show we are willing to keep up the networks they need to function?

Senator Mills goes on to say that by getting a handle on taxes and removing some regulations Maine can attract new business and revitalize the ones we already have. “In some cases, all it takes is for government to move out of the way.” says Mills. Mills supports bringing cheaper power to Maine through alternative energy and energy partnerships with our Canadian neighbors.

After reviewing Senator Mills’ record and plans if he should be elected, Mills seems to have remained the socially tolerant, fiscally conservative Republican he has always been. Mills’ recent courting of the left, as his plan shows, are not the beginnings of an Arlan Spector-esque dodge to the progressives. If Mills continues to hammer home his roots, and clearly explain his recent opinions, he will be a strong contender for the GOP nomination and the Blaine House – especially in a highly fractured field. This match is far from over however. Other GOP contenders will most certainly be stiff competition for Mills. We’ll have to wait until next June to see how Maine Republicans feel about the senator from Cornville.

Peter Mills enters the race

Republican State Senator Peter Mills will run for Maine governor. Mills will run as a Republican, challenging Bruce Poliquin, Matt Jacobson, and Les Otten for the GOP nomination. I’ve been scooped on this story by just about everyone, including the Augusta Insider, Pine Tree Politics, and As Maine Goes.

The Augusta Insider reports that since Mills is choosing to run GOP he will not be able to turn Independent should he not receive his party’s nomination. Mills is the first GOP candidate to come from a political background, possibly making him a prime target in the primary. Mills is also the first GOP candidate to file for public funding.

Pine Tree Politics, who just yesterday pondered a Mills run, wrote on Mills announcement and his chances of winning the GOP primary and the Blaine House.

from Pine Tree Politics:

Mills’ greatest argument was that he was a socially tolerant, fiscally conservative candidate. I have long argued that this is exactly where Maine voters are ideologically – they don’t really want the government pushing social policy, and they really want some fiscal relief and sound management – and he could have filled that quite easily.

But with tax reform and now healthcare reform, Mills is blowing a hole in the idea that he is a fiscal conservative. Many Maine Republicans are left wondering if he is center-left on social issues, and now appears to be center-left on fiscal issues as well, why should he deserve the support of the grassroots?

Comments on the Mills announcement thread at As Maine Goes seems to support PTP’s argument.

I haven’t seen a website with a solid platform page, though Mills does have one from his previous senate run, so I wont go in depth on his run yet. I will say this, which I also posted as a comment on PTP – Maine Republicans are much closer to the middle than other states. A Republican in Maine is not necessarily the same as one in Utah. Maine GOPers seem to hold strong to the ideals laid down in the Goldwater era; low taxes, fiscal responsibility, and small government. When in comes to social issues I get the feeling that ME GOPers are more open than most, taking an almost libertarian approach of “stay out of my business and I’ll stay out of yours.

I think that could give Mills an edge. Even with his recent alignment with the left on gay marriage, health care, and tax reform, Mills record sits pretty squarely in a fiscal conservative social moderate hole. This could leave Mills sitting pretty when it comes to courting support from the moderate and blue dog Democrats in Maine.

Mills is not a lock in this dynamic election.

from Pine Tree Politics:

If any of the three business guys can become the consensus “fiscal conservative” choice, I think it will be a dog fight and they would have a rather big chance to knock off the big dog.

Personally, though, I think they’ll all split the vote, and Mills will be fighting for a small share himself. I see the 1994 eight way Republican nomination fight that Susan Collins won repeating itself.

Nothing is set in this election. Still anyone’s game, and what a game it’s shaping up to be. I guess I picked a good time to start writing on politics!

Steppin’ into the Twilight Zone

Just when I was starting to think Sarah Palin had some shred of political savvy she goes and quits. Why? Well there are, at this point, thousands of opinions on the matter. The Moderate Voice and Donklephant can supply you with more than a few. Maine politicos at Turn Maine Blue and As Maine Goes throw in their two cents as well.

After a long two weeks of shocking deaths, this news made me pinch myself. And her speech! Can one even call it that. Calling Palin’s resignation address a speech would just confuse school children as to what a speech actually is. No kids, that was just disorganized rambling. That will not bring you success on the debate team.

You’ve all heard the dead fish and basketball analogies. Well you can’t BS a BSer. You wouldn’t quit the basketball game halfway through the first period, especially if it was your first game. I don’t understand how quitting because you couldn’t do the job makes you any kind of hero, or is a smart political move. Imagine if she HAD been vice president. “Well country, the media has been a big meanie to me and those darn Democrats wont let me skeet shoot in the Rose Garden. I can see nothing is going to get done so I quit. Told’ja I was mavericky.”

While this may be the political death of Sarah Palin, I imagine there is something up her sleeve. There is a more lucrative game in town and Palin wants in on it. I would not be surprised if there is some sort of punditry in her future. Fox News could expect a HUGE ratings boost with Palin on the payroll. Plus there is radio, books, news columns, all sorts of better paying avenues than Gov. And ones where you can do what ever your moose shootin’ self likes.

She, maybe Palin isn’t as crazy as you thought…Did I really just write that. This must be the Twlight Zone.

Otten is in

It’s now official. As of this morning (Monday) Maine Energy Systems CEO, former American Ski Co. CEO, and part Red Sox owner Les Otten has announced he will challenge Bruce Poliquin and Matt Jacobson for the Republican nomination to run for governor.

My profile of Otten will be coming in a few days. In the meantime that lovely curmudgeon Al Diamon weighs in on Otten’s campaign, as well as Dawn Hill, Eliot Cutler, Rosa Scarelli

The Bolt to the Blaine House ’10 – Matt Jacobson (R)

Four Maine gubernatorial candidates have been covered so far. Alex Hammer, Bruce Poliquin, Lynne Williams, and Steve Rowe have had their time in the sun. Now Matt Jacobson (R) gets his chance.

Jacobson already has made a strong digital presence on the web. Jacobson exemplifies a web 2.0 candidate, as does most of his opponents. There is a website, blog, twitter, facebook, and myspace page for the candidate. Each is on par with the competition, though from a design point of view both Republican candidates at this point have the best looking websites. I’ll leave speculation as to why that is to others.

As a writer for Maine Biz, it’s no surprise that Jacobson’s focus is on business. All of the issue pages of his site are either overtly business related or link their topics to business. Not that this is a bad thing. With Maine struggling to emerge from recession, the loss of manufacturing industries like paper, and recover from years of mass youth migration Jacobson’s tactic is a wise one. Jacobson’s blog, a port of his Maine Biz writings, provides a wealth of information on his business stance. I’m going to focus only on Jacobson’s website at this point.

The site Jacobson has constructed is comprehensive. Coverage of issues is broken down into five categories; jobs and economy, education, spending and taxes, energy, and the environment. I’ll touch on a few of those.

Jacobson pushes for a smaller, learner government in order to lower spending. To get the best grasp of Jacobson’s plan for reorganizing government one need only look as far as the recent school district consolidation. Jacobson is looking to consolidate services the government provides. The engine of government will be tuned and all those useless aftermarket mods your cousin said would get you more power will be yanked out. Jacobson hopes his tuneup job will leave us with “Fewer yet more efficient units of government dedicated to higher quality performance is the key – just as it is in every budget across Maine”

I can say with confidence that Matt Jacobson fits the fiscal conservative mold to a tee. His stance on taxes and spending and pro-business attitude make that choice a no brainer. I hesitate to label him a moderate. There is little information available on his social leanings at this point.

You may be saying now well what makes Jacobson any different from Republican challenger Bruce Poliquin? They both in favor of lower taxes, less regulations, and pro-business. The differences are subtle, but they are there if you look. Take their environmental positions for instance. Poliquin advocates a partnership of ecology and economy. Jacobson too believes that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive as well, but if push came to shove the economy would come first. Jacobson says on his website, “Where environmental and land use rules and regulations become unnecessary barriers preventing responsible growth of jobs and communities, I’ll make sure those barriers are taken away.” Yes, Maine’s environmental regulations can be excessive, but Poliquin illustrates what some of them made possible. “When I was a boy in Waterville, if you fell in the Kennebec River you had to get a tetanus shot. We should all be proud of the years of hard work to restore many of our natural assets. We cannot go backwards in the protection of our environment.”

Here’s how I look at the two candidates. Poliquin is pro Maine families. The crux of Poliquin’s campaign is his “plan to help Maine families.” Poliquin’s policies are to advance the quality of life for Maine families first. The fact that they aid business as well are almost secondary. Jacobson is pro-business first and foremost. This is not to say that Jacobson is anti-family. No candidate in their right mind would even elude to that. Jacobson’s policies advance the cause of business in Maine, which incidentally helps Maine families.

Does this mean Jacobson has no appeal to Maine voters? Of course not. Running the government is much like running a business. Jacobson could leverage this point in the primaries, driving home the economic state of Maine. There are two hurdles to face. Do Republicans want a Jack Welch type business man as their government CEO or do they want a jack-of-all-trades? If Jacobson should win his parties nomination, can Jacobson bet that the state at large is not sick of business types altogether?

So much of politics is all about spin. If Jacobson can spin his business experience, which is vast, to his advantage it could spell victory in the primary. Then possibly the Blaine House. It wont be an easy fight for Jacobson by any means. But if his military and business resume proves anything it’s that he’ll give the competition a fight.

The Bolt to the Blaine House ’10 – Bruce Poliquin (R)

Yesterday I covered Independent candidate for governor Alex Hammer. Today it’s the GOP’s turn. I’ll examine Bruce Poliquin.

A special note – It may seem that I have been much harder on Poliquin than I was yesterday with Hammer. This is only because Poliquin had more information available for me to pick apart. It is in no way an endorsement of one over the other at this point.

Bruce Poliquin is one of two GOP candidates at this point. Poliquin is not going to be left behind on the internet superhighway. He already has a decent website, facebook, and twitter. The majority of his platform seems like it could belong to any Republican candidate for governor in Maine. Lower taxes? Check. Less regulation of business? Check. Curb state spending? Check. Poliquin is even so bold as to state that education needs to be made a top priority! I never expected a politician to support education in such an unique way. OK maybe I’m being a little cynical. I’m 27. In my short amount of political experience I have never heard a politician not make education a “top priority”.

Before I’m accused of Bruce bashing, let me break down a few points of his platform. The highlight of Poliquin’s platform so far is his Plan to Help Maine Families. Poliquin’s plan contains ten points to address what’s ailing Vacationland.

from Bruceforme:

  1. Lower Taxes to National Averages or Less.
  2. Create Positive Attitude Toward Business Development and Jobs.
  3. Carefully Reduce State Spending to National Averages or Less.
  4. Reform State Programs to Do More With Less.
  5. Promote Competition Among Health Care Insurance Companies to Lower Premium Costs.
  6. Improve Education System to Better Prepare Students for College and Beyond.
  7. Simplify Business Regulations to Create New Jobs.
  8. Complete Infrastructure to Enhance Our Quality of Life.
  9. Explore Ways to Lower Energy Costs.
  10. Protect Our Environment while Promoting Job Creation.

Though not as bad off as our Massachusetts cousins, Maine taxes have been above the national average for some time. While the national average tax burden is 9.7%, Maine’s is 10%. Of course the median household income here is $44,000, about the same as the national average. Lowering taxes will certainly win some voters. Will it be practical when our infrastructure is crumbling? Maine’s infrastructure grade is a C- overall. Maine roads received a D and bridges a D+. That is beyond scary. There is a $400 million gap in funding for Maine DOT bridge repair. Not to mention that the ASCE labeled 17 Maine dams high public hazards and 153 significant to high hazards. Add to that numbers 6 (improve education) and 8 (complete infrastructure) and lower taxes seems more and more difficult to accomplish. In all honesty, I don’t think lowering Maine taxes to the national average is a poor goal. It would have to be coupled with large spending cuts, especially considering the cuts Maine had to make just to balance the budget recently.

Number 2 (creating a positive attitude toward business) is important for Maine at this juncture. Governors have tried to court companies into the state for some time. Their approach has been flawed. It has been too narrow. Governors have focused on getting this particular business or that one. The whole time they have neglected the broader business picture. Maine should open itself up to businesses of all types, not just existing industries or things like phone centers. Diversifying Maine’s economy is the only way for the state to proceed forward and to stop the flood of Maine’s graduates from the state.

How does Poliquin plan to do this? Well his recipe is not innovative.

from Bruceforme:
To attract businesses and jobs we must: tax less, spend wisely, simplify regulations, lower energy and healthcare costs, complete our infrastructure, and improve education. Some initiatives can be implemented relatively soon. Others are longer-term. It will take common sense, hard work, and competent management. For all of us who call Maine home, it will be worth it.

Poliquin’s solutions to taxation (across the board cuts), spending (cutting wasteful programs), regulations (streamline and simplify), energy costs (pursue alternative energy & upgrade grid with Canada) and healthcare costs (strong reforms) are a mix of Republican staples moderated with a generally liberal concern for the environment. Comparisons between the politics of Poliquin and Senators Snowe and Collins are sure to come. Will that link be enough for Poliquin to get to the Blaine House? To win his parties nomination for even the chance? It’s far too early to tell. Without more specifics I can’t say either. I will say a Republican that is not as least as moderate as Poliquin seems to be will last as long as a lobster at a tourist trap on Route 1 in this election

Tomorrow: Lynne Williams (G)

Colin Powell Still Republican and More

Colin Powell appeared on Face the Nation this morning. Powell addressed many issues of the day including the future of the GOP, torture, and Gitmo. I’d like to draw attention to his comments on the GOP and Gitmo.

You may remember about two weeks ago Dick Cheney said, on Face the Nation, that Colin Powell had already left the Republican Party. Cheney said Powell’s endorsement of Mr. Obama in the election showed his true side.. “I assumed that that is some indication of his loyalty and his interest,” Cheney said. Cheney also commented that Rush Limbaugh is a better representation of the Republican Party than Powell.

Well until Powell comes out and says he switches parties then he’s still a Republican.

from CBS

“I am still a Republican. I’d like to point out that in the course of my 50 years of voting for presidents, I have voted for the person I thought was best qualified at that time to lead the nation. Last year I thought it was President-now Barack Obama,” Powell said.

Powell shows yet again why I respect him a great deal. He votes his conscious, not party lines. Shouldn’t that be what America is about? The best person for the job? Powell gets it. These words mean a great deal to moderates out there tired of their parties being hi-jacked by extremist nut-jobs. Do the research. Vote for you believe will do the best job, regardless of party lines.

Powell chastised President Obama’s handling of Guantanamo.

from CBS

“I think President Obama didn’t handle it very well by going up to the Congress and asking for $80 million without a plan. And by, frankly, giving enough time to opponents of it to marshal their forces as to why we shouldn’t do this,”

Powell said he has told President Obama all of his concerns and worries that the president gave his opponents too much time to react to the plan. He hopes that the politicizing of the decision will start to die down.

Acording to Powell, Bush wanted to close Gitmo during his presidency. Bush was unable to close the deal on how to properly execute the closure, something Obama is struggling with now. Powell uses this as a jumping point to smash Cheney again.

from CBS

“Mr. Cheney is not only disagreeing with President Obama’s policy. He’s disagreeing with President Bush’s policy. President Bush stated repeatedly to international audiences and to the country that he wanted to close Guantanamo. The problem he had was he couldn’t get all the pieces together,” Powell said.

That wraps a great interview from a personal favorite of mine. Any thoughts on the GOP, party politics, Gitmo, Powell, or anything else?

Watch CBS Videos Online

Sunday Editorial on Editorials – Gay marriage and negotiation thank you

Let’s start off this weekend with an editorial from the Portland Press Herald. The writer is critical of a new argument proposed in favor of the gay marriage bills here in Maine. The argument? The bill would produce an economic boost.

from Portland Press Herald

The Williams Institute at the University of California School of Law has issued a report claiming that the Maine economy would see a $60 million boost over the next three years if same-sex couples were allowed to marry.

The study estimated how many couples would take advantage of the law and what they would spend on a wedding. It also estimated how much the state would collect in taxes and fees.

In this tough economy, it’s hard to be against anything that would help generate activity and boost tax revenues, but it is equally hard to believe that this type of analysis would help any thoughtful person come to a decision on this issue.

The gay marriage issue is one of beliefs, not of numbers. The editorial goes on to state that whether people are for or against the issue has nothing to do with economics. If people voted on these sort of things based solely on economics pot and prostitution would have long been legalized.

Linking the gay marriage issue to money only cheapens the discussion. We need to reach out to people’s hearts and minds, not their wallets. Let’s not forget that this is an issue affecting real people, people who love each other, people who are being denied rights that the rest of us, including myself at times, take for granted. There are plenty of solid reasons for people to be for or against gay marriage. Don’t be distracted by time wasting speculation.

Next we have a letter to the editor from the Bangor Daily News. The writer thanks senators Snowe and Collins for showing the courage to stand up for what they believed in and for bringing moderation to the stimulus bill. In a time when moderate Republicans are facing a firing-line of their GOP counterparts this letter is refreshing. I’ll let you read the whole thing.

from Bangor Daily News

Thinking outside the box is a term associated with progress, innovation and even brilliance. Mainers should be proud of Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe for showing the courage and responsibility to not only think outside the box, but to vote outside the box on the stimulus bill. To step across a line that had metamorphosed into an almost insurmountable wall was an act of political bravery. But that is what Mainers have come to expect from both Collins and Snowe.

Collins and Snowe have been thinking, responsible members of Congress who put the good of the people at the top of their agenda. If all politicians held themselves to these standards, Congress would be a different place.

Political parties are necessary evils, but if members of those parties cannot be independent thinkers who consider and weigh issues, then the governmental process we pride ourselves on is just an illusion. The party borders need to be elastic and fluid so ideas and actions can blend and merge and the best possible answers and actions can result. Bipartisanism, compromise and negotiate — Collins and Snowe understand these words.

Snowe contributed to the stimulus bill workings not only through her position on the Senate Finance Committee, but also by trading ideas with Vice President Biden. By stepping up to the plate — and into the Oval Office to negotiate — Collins had a major role in the stimulus compromise.

Negotiated bipartisan compromise: the way government should be!

Thoughts, opinions, rants? Let’s hear ’em

Long Division Takes Its Time – Getting the stimulus right.

David Broder of the Washington Post wrote today urging time be taken to get the best stimulus package we can get. The Dems have the power to push through whatever they want, but should they? Should Obama be more Reagan or Clinton? Read the article and see for yourself.

Take Time to Get the Stimulus Right

By David Broder

WASHINGTON — When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced in early January that there would be no mid-February recess for Congress unless the giant economic stimulus bill demanded by Barack Obama were on its way to the White House, she accomplished two things.

On the positive side, she clearly signaled to Republicans that delaying tactics could cost them vacations and campaign time in their home districts. But conversely, her hard line was a tacit green light to her fellow Democrats to ram the staggeringly expensive piece of legislation through, whatever objections the GOP raised.

Last week the $819 billion tax and spending bill passed the House with all but 11 Democrats supporting it and not a single Republican voting yes. The first important roll call of the Obama presidency looked as bitterly partisan as any of the Bush years.

It was not for lack of effort on the part of the new president. Obama went to the Capitol to visit Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers, and even encouraged the Democratic draftsmen to scrap a couple of egregiously irrelevant spending programs they had penciled into the bill.

But the complaint I heard from Republicans was that Pelosi and her lieutenants, committee chairmen Charlie Rangel and David Obey, had used the tight timetable and their control of legislative procedures to block virtually all efforts to open the bill to compromise.

In the floor debate, Rangel and Obey rebutted the claim effectively, I thought. Nonetheless, there are compelling reasons, both substantive and political, to hope that the Senate consideration of the bill, which begins this week, is far more open, even if that means spending more time than Obama and the Democrats would prefer.

This bill, so much larger than ordinary legislation, even the wartime defense appropriations, is almost certain to be the biggest if not the last weapon the government employs to halt the sickening economic slide that has gripped the country in the past five months. So much is uncertain, and so much is riding on it, that it’s worth taking time to try to get it right.

Professional economists from both the right and left have raised questions that are anything but frivolous about its design. Martin Feldstein, a top Reagan adviser, has questioned the efficacy of the current menu of tax cuts and spending proposals to generate consumer demand and produce jobs. Alice Rivlin, who played a similar role for Bill Clinton, has called for a sharper focus on short-term job growth as distinguished from slow-acting steps for energy independence or health care quality. Even the Congressional Budget Office has challenged how quickly this massive infusion of dollars will be felt in family budgets and the marketplace.

Beyond these policy challenges, there are political considerations that make it really important for Obama to take the time to negotiate for more than token Republican support in the Senate.

Nothing was more central to his victory last fall than his claim that he could break the partisan gridlock in Washington. He wants to be like Ronald Reagan, steering his first economic measures through a Democratic House in 1981, not Bill Clinton, passing his first budget in 1993 without a single Republican vote.

The first way leads to long-term success; the second foretells the early loss of control.

This vote will set a pattern for Obama, one way or the other. He needs a bipartisan majority because, tough as this issue is, harder ones await when he turns to energy, health care and entitlement reform.

The good news is that Obama can find such support in the Senate, if his allies are smart in the way they handle the bill and allow the Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, Chuck Grassley and John McCain, to have a real voice in reshaping it. And then the dozen or so House Republicans who wanted to vote yes before the process turned ugly will finally be able to do so, when the bill comes back to the House.

What Obama can’t allow is for Majority Leader Harry Reid to become impatient and force a showdown or pull the bill off the floor, as Reid did with immigration reform in the last Congress. So much is riding on this — both substantively and politically — it’s worth taking the time to do it right.

It would be devastating for Obama and the country to push this stimulus through as fast as possible. Bullying the Republicans to pass anything the Dems want will not get us through this. Nor will the Repubs bucking everything Obama sends their way just on the basis of ideology. It seems like I am reading a lot on taking the stimulus slow and steady. Is our government listening?

Agree to Disagree – Is compromise always best?

Rush Limbaugh has made it to the big time. Yesterday Limbaugh wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal detailing his version of the stimulus plan, which I covered last week. The column was a rehash of the proposal he released on his show as the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009. The column itself made for an enjoyable read. I could see all of Rush’s points, and agree with a few, without all that jargonizing getting it the way. I guess sensible talk is not what brings in Rush the big bucks.

Take the opening paragraph: There’s a serious debate in this country as to how best to end the recession. The average recession will last five to 11 months; the average recovery will last six years. Recessions will end on their own if they’re left alone. What can make the recession worse is the wrong kind of government intervention.

There are a some misleading facts. Only recessions counted from 1945 to 2007 average out to 5 to 11 months. Roughly ten recessions occurred prior, including the Great Depression. Most administrations did attempt to intervene in the crises with varying degrees of success. Rush and many others, myself included, question whether or not the current stimulus is the best approach.

The solution proposed by Limbaugh is a compromise between spending (Keynesian) and tax cuts (Supply-Side). Maybe a compromise isn’t the best solution either.

Compromises have brought us some great things in history. Our Bill of Rights is the product of a compromise between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Compromises don’t always produce the best results. The Reconstruction Era led to decades of discrimination, violence, and terrorism against religious, ethnic, and racial minorities.

A compromise just to prove Obama is bipartisan or to save hurt feelings of those who oppose the stimulus is wrong. This isn’t the schoolyard. No one should be forced to make compromises with our money and economy in the name of togetherness. I want the best plan there is. If that comes through a compromise then OK. If it comes from the Dems or if it comes from the GOP I don’t care. As long as this thing is not a waste of money and helps get us back on the right track quicker than doing nothing at all I’m behind whoever proposes the stimulus.

Now is the time for decisive action. Stop the in fighting, keep the debate going. Work the best solution to the problem. Quit the handholding kumbya and quit power games. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but there is a middle ground on how to approach the stimulus here.