Friday, January 11, 2008

Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts

The Politico reports on an 'olive branch' extended by Congressional Democratic leaders -- an offer to meet with the president on a stimulus package before either side is committed to a proposal:

In an [sic] magnanimous move, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have sent President Bush a letter asking for a high level meeting so both sides can try to work out a bipartisan economic stimulus package before Democrats and Republicans start bickering about the specifics in public. In the letter, to be released this afternoon, Pelosi and Reid say they want to work with the White House and Republican leadership to "immediately develop a legislative plan."

Rather than pre-empting the president's expected economic proposals in his State of the Union address later this month, Democrats say they want to visit the White House next week and hash out a plan before either side releases its economic ideas.

"We would strongly urge this meeting take place before any economic packages are announced," Reid and Pelosi wrote in their letter.

Why the sudden conciliatory tone from Congressional leaders, who have so far sought to bully the White House at every turn? My guess is that it's because they're committed to new spending, and they want to get to the President before he has a chance to commit to a stimulus package with no new spending.

Last year, Congressional Democrats staked out their position and tried to force the President to come around. Presented with a 'take it or leave it' spending proposal, the president had little problem sticking with fiscal conservatives. They ended up getting rolled, and have been forced to reassess their strategy for the year ahead.

They seem to have decided that they might have better luck if they can get to the president early. If he doesn't take a firm position against them, maybe they can make a deal -- for $20 billion, $50 billion, or $100 billion in 'emergency' spending. It would all be tailored to stimulate the economy (of course), and it would be merely a coincidence that it included all the same spending items that got dropped from the appropriations bills last year.

Conservatives should get to the White House early, and tell them that before agreeing to any summit, they should stake out a position that any stimulus spending should fall within the regular spending caps.

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