Advisers to President-elect Barack Obama are far less confident than they were as recently as a week ago that his economic stimulus package will be approved by Congress in time for his inauguration on January 20. Even Democrat leaders now concede they can't meet that timetable, partly because Republicans and some Democrats are insisting on a more methodical approach to considering the massive package, which is still evolving and might exceed $1 trillion.
Robert Gibbs, Obama's chief spokesman and the incoming White House press secretary, told reporters on Sunday that it was "very, very unlikely" that the package would be on Obama's desk for signing by the 20th. "We don't anticipate that Congress will have passed both houses an Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan by the time the inauguration takes place," Gibbs said.
This is a blow to Obama's hopes of getting off to a dramatically fast start. It is also a sign that his honeymoon with his adversaries and even some in his own party won't last very long.
Meanwhile, Democratic strategists say the Republicans will be playing with fire if they substantially delay or obstruct the emerging economic stimulus package being proposed by Barack Obama and majority Democrats in Congress.
A filibuster in the Senate, for example, "would be a final marginalizing act" for the GOP, says Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, at a time when the Republican brand seems to be declining and many Americans aren't sure what the GOP stands for.
Greenberg, who was a key adviser to President Bill Clinton, says Americans want "pragmatic, bipartisan action" on the economy and Republicans would make themselves "irrelevant" if they stand in the way of Obama's program and don't give his ideas a chance.
Greenberg adds that in the Senate, where rules allow a minority to block legislation, Republican moderates such as Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania could well vote with the Democrats to put the stimulus legislation over the top.
- Read about the lobbying over federal stimulus spending.
- Read why conservative opposition may delay the economic recovery plan.
- Read more about the Obama transition.
- Read more about the economic stimulus plans.