Nate Silver has a neat metric about the degree to which Democrats have lost control of the stimulus debate:
The unflattering term "pork" is now being used about four times more commonly in connection with the stimulus as it was two weeks ago -- even though the underlying package has not substantially changed. This is what it means to lose control of a debate.
Not unrelatedly, and more distressingly, the bill seems to have been commandeered by Ben Nelson and Susan Collins, who are themselves at odds as to how much spending to strip out a bill that's already too small:
The lack of an agreement between the two leaders of the talks, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), has thrown the final outcome of the stimulus plan into doubt. Both want to reduce the package’s cost, but Collins wants to impose deeper cuts.
But -- but! -- the bill also seems likely to come to a vote by tomorrow. So maybe the Senate will make itself feel better by stripping out some programs, adding in some non-stimulative junk -- like this crazy provision to give money to everybody who buys a house -- and then pass a bill that's about 80-90% as good as the House version. Could be worse.