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Stimulus Bill Back to the Future?

Today's news that Obama's first order of business as President will be to pass an economic stimulus package to kick start the economy immediately shot me back to 1993. One of then President Bill Clinton's first orders of business as President was to propose a $19B stimulus bill (a quaint number in today's terms).

That didn't go to well for him: "Senate Republicans killed President Clinton's economic stimulus program today, maintaining their filibuster until Democrats surrendered and agreed to limit the bill to $4 billion for extended unemployment benefits."

The Republicans won that fight because they were successful in characterizing the bill as a pork barrel handout and not an actual effective way to stimulate the economy - which, in 1993 needed help (remember, "It's the economy, stupid"). This same strategy was then used by the GOP to kill the Clinton crime bill, Hilary Clinton's health care plan and build momentum for a party that just lost the presidency for the first time in 12 years. No big deal, right? Clinton had a great run anyway - who cares?

Well, most importantly for the Republicans, this strategy was the building block for the 1994 congressional elections. If you recall in that election (i) the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years; (ii) then sitting House Speaker Tom Foley actually lost his bid for re-election in his district; and (iii) the (soon-to-be-new-House Speaker) Newt Gingrich led Contract with America had such a groundswell of support that it caused at least a couple of Senators (Shelby is the one I remember) to actually switch parties from Democrat to Republican. And all of this was before anyone had ever heard the name Monica Lewinsky.

So, yeah, it kind of matters.

Anyway, I'm sure that none of this will be lost on Obama and his team as they press forward on the stimulus bill. They will presumably be more careful in their navigating these waters. Because one thing is for certain, I'm positive the Republicans remember this history.


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