Obama, His Spending Face Challenges in Fiscally Responsible, Centrist Democrats

Centrist Democrats will push back against Obama's spending.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Some great news for fiscal conservatives this morning: Sen. Evan Bayh announced a coalition of 15 moderate Democratic senators interested in a centrist alternative to Harry Reid's agenda in the Senate. "We are not ideologues. We are pragmatic. We are not strident partisans. We care about our country more than our party," Senator Bayh said on "Morning Joe."

He and his colleagues will be holding a press conference later today, and already they've heard from White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who asked if he could join them. (The "Morning Joe" crowd joked that the senator should be careful; he may be the recipient of a dead fish this afternoon.)

If the Minnesota senate race ends up going to Al Franken, the Dems will hold 59 seats in the Senate—one vote short of the 60 they need to pass legislation. We saw the influence wielded by moderate Republicans Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins in the vote on the stimulus bill. Those three Republicans basically called the shots on the final version. Similarly, these 15 moderate Democrats can effectively veto just about any bill coming up: the 2010 budget, the cap-and-trade proposals on the environment, the administration's healthcare reform—and can make a difference in determining whether those moderate Republicans get on board as well. Rahm Emanuel knows they're going to need these centrists to get any part of the president's agenda through the Senate.

The news is just as good in the House. The Boston Herald is reporting that a lot of worried House Democrats are seeking ways to rein in the size of President Obama's budget proposals as well. Congressman Allen Boyd, a Democrat from Florida, heads a similar centrist group, the Blue Dog Democrats, in the House. Boyd says that if all 47 of his Blue Dogs joined the 178 House GOP members, they could deny Nancy Pelosi the 218-vote majority she needs to pass her agenda.

The timing couldn't be better. Hearings on the president's FY 2010 budget begin in Congress the week of March 30. This Friday, the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release a preliminary analysis of the president's massive federal budget, the earmark-filled $410 billion spending bill, and the administration's economic projections—many of which are a lot less optimistic than they were even a few weeks ago. "That's likely to mean a deficit prediction even bigger than the $1.7 trillion fiscal 2009 figure Obama has been using," reports the Herald.

Most people want to get the economy moving without the trillions in debt that the administration is proposing. These centrists in the House and the Senate are the key to achieving some level of fiscal sanity. Great news for folks trying to make ends meet—both around the kitchen table and in the halls of the Capitol.

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