The House vote on Obama's stimulus bill -- H.R. 1, the administration's first big test of its capacity for arm-twisting the legislature -- is imminent. Will it pass?
Democratic leadership is optimistic -- and politically, it must pass. Nancy Pelosi can't bring it to the floor without knowing it will pass, because a rejection would be such a blow to the new Obama administration. The problem at this juncture isn't the Republicans -- they're entirely lost -- but the Blue Dogs, who are anxious about the price tag and the idea of abandoning fiscal discipline. (You can read about some individual Blue Dogs' angsty soul-searching over the price of the stimulus here, here and here. Poor, torn Dan Boren.) Many Blue Dogs have to vote for the bill or else it fails.
Team Obama's solution to the Blue Dog trouble: Prepare a letter to distribute to the Blue Dogs from Peter Orszag, the head of the OMB, promising that the Obama administration will demand fiscal discipline -- including a return to the tough pay-as-you-go rules for congressional spending -- after this little orgy:
Moving forward, we need to return to the fiscal responsibility and pay-as-you-go budgeting that we had in the 1990’s for all non-emergency measures. The President and his economic team look forward to working with the Congress to develop budget enforcement rules that are based on the tools that helped create the surpluses of a decade ago. Putting the country back on the path of fiscal responsibility will mean tough choices and difficult trade-offs, but for the long-term health of our economy, the President believes that they must be made.
At least some Blue Dogs, including Louisiana's vocal Charlie Melancon, were instantly succored.
Boy, I wish I could employ this tactic to get the people demanding more fiscal discipline from me off my back. To my PEPCO bill collector: "Oh yes, moving forward, I believe we need to return to the pay-my-bill-every-month we had last year. I look forward to working with you, perhaps sometime in the future when I have more money, to develop enforcement rules. Cheers, Eve."