McConnell Marginalized In Stimulus Debate, Says Expert

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the first major test of his power as the titular head of a dwindled Republican caucus, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell found himself outmaneuvered and outnumbered as he faced off against a Democratic majority on an Obama administration-backed $787 billion economic stimulus package, reports the McClatchy News Service in the Sunday edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"This legislation was driven by the White House, House Democrats and the Senate Democrats," said Larry Sabato, political science professor at the University of Virginia. "McConnell is in a terrible position. The Democrats have a hand full of aces. He has a bunch of twos."

The final version of the economic stimulus package passed the Senate late Friday night on a largely partisan vote. The House of Representatives passed the final version of the bill on a vote of 246-183, with no Republican support.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill as soon as Monday.

The White House has said the package will help resuscitate the nation's ailing economy by offering tax relief and creating or saving 3.5 million jobs. States will net $27.5 billion to modernize roads and bridges, $53.6 billion to help offset education costs and $87 billion for Medicaid.

McConnell and fellow Republicans said that the aid comes at too steep a price, contains too much entitlement spending, doesn't do enough to help financially strapped homeowners and doesn't contain enough tax cuts - a provision Republicans see as vital to shoring up the private sector.

"This week, congressional Democrats are handing taxpayers a bill for $1.2 trillion," McConnell said on the Senate floor Friday. "Soon, they'll spend $400 billion to finish up spending from last year. We're being told to get ready for untold hundreds of billions for the financial industry."

"Since taking over Congress and the White House, Democrats have been making up for lost time with a government spending spree on the taxpayer credit card," McConnell said. "Even without this massive spending bill, the deficit continues to grow."

Ultimately, there was another set of numbers that McConnell just couldn't overcome.

Republicans hold 178 of the House's 435 seats and 41 of the 100 Senate seats - numbers too small to merit much say in crafting the compromise legislation. Instead, McConnell was forced to watch as moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania joined Democrats on key votes on the economic stimulus package and took a lead role in helping shape the legislation, reports the McClatchy News Service.

Copyright - McClatchy News Service

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