Democrats had a big show of strength in their near party line vote for the “economic stimulus” package. The vote should put an end to the storyline that we have somehow entered a “post-partisan” era, but Democrats can take comfort in their 244-188 victory, a very comfortable margin, even while losing 11 members and gaining no Republican votes. Democrats simply don’t need to attract Republicans to get what they want done.
Yet the win came with a cost. When Speaker Pelosi embarrassingly tried to defend an appropriation in support of family planning services as somehow related to the economy, even a news media cheerleading for Democrats couldn’t hide the story line that so much of the bill being championed by the president as critical for our economy was old fashion pork and party payoffs. A new Rasmussen poll shows that support for the bill is on the decline, with just 42 percent of Americans favoring this first major initiative of President Obama and his Democratic Congress. Another item from the original bill could also prove troublesome for Democrats: an appropriation for $21 million to sod the National Mall. Recognizing this as an outrageous sum of money for the job, Republican House Leader John Boehner’s political action committee launched a petition to recruit volunteers to do the labor and leave the government just to pick up the tab for the materials. Like the funding for contraceptives, the sod project was quickly pulled from the bill.
This didn’t get much national attention, but it just might when Congress considers another funding item in Washington, D.C. Later this year, Congress must consider whether to provide about $13 million to fund the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This program provides more than 1,700 students from low-income D.C. families with scholarships so they can attend a school of their parents’ choice.
Congressional Democrats–including D.C.’s own representative Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton—have long opposed the program, in spite of its popularity within the D.C. community. President Obama (who sends his children to private school, of course) has stated that he opposes school vouchers, which he argues amounts to abandoning the public school system.