Why Conservative Opposition May Delay Economic Rescue Plan

The prospects are fading for congressional action before Inauguration Day.


There is rising doubt in Washington that Congress will be able to pass the vast spending plan—the so-called economic rescue plan—being sought by President-elect Barack Obama by the time he takes office on January 20. "The problem is the plethora of details," says a former adviser to Ronald Reagan who remains close to congressional Republicans.

Conservatives have strong doubts about some of the ideas being promoted by Democratic leaders, such as massive new federal expenditures on infrastructure projects and other programs. Many economists say such direct spending may be the most effective way to jump-start the sinking economy.

Instead, many conservatives prefer an emphasis on tax cuts, the conventional GOP priority that can also provide a fiscal stimulus to the economy.

Economists are concerned that in the current conditions, many people would just save the money from a tax cut while direct government spending would be a surer way to give the economy a jolt and help create jobs.

A prominent Democrat with close ties to the Obama team agrees that the odds appear to be against quick passage and says that even some conservative Democrats will oppose major spending provisions. "It's not going to happen soon," he says.

The big sticking point, the insiders say, will be the Senate, where rules allow a minority of members to block or delay legislation.

The upshot: It may not be possible to enact the package for two or three months after Obama takes over, and that may come as a big disappointment for Americans who are expecting Obama to prod Congress into taking bold and immediate action.