It appears that the stimulus bill can’t get to 60 votes in present form and is going to be pared back by 200 billion and getting closer to a 1:1 spending-tax cut ratio. Nate Silver has a solid analysis of how this happened:
Still, in essentially passing off both narrative and literal control of the contents of the package to the Congressional Democrats, the Obama administration may have played it too cute by half. Obama is popular; Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid aren't. The trajectory of the bill might have been different if Obama had devoted a prime time speech toward selling it, with graphs and pie charts and the like. But there hasn't been a Big Obama Moment like that -- a show of force -- something that really resonated outside the Beltway. The closest Obama came, oddly enough, was during his inaugural address, but the references to the stimulus there were abstract, oblique.
The upside is that Obama himself is likely to emerge from the whole affair relatively unscathed.
Obama’s real power is the ability to ‘go public,’ a coin termed back to describe Reagan’s techniques for appealing to public opinion to put pressure on his political opponents. Instead, he played it conservative and let the Republicans outmaneuver Reid in the Senate, big surprise there. Pelosi got her bill past, though instead of letting her run up the margins and start with a strong point, we made concessions in exchange for no Republican votes. As Ezra Klein points out, the new era of responsibility has meant losing Daschle and nominating Judd Gregg for Treasury did nothing to help the passage of the stimulus and so far gained very little from a policy perspective. If the recovery doesn’t start by 2010 the elections results are going to be very bad for the Democrats and rightfully so.
My one source of hope is that the President has been routinely underestimated by basically everyone. His no drama style has given him a lot of endurance as his adversaries flail and embarrass themselves. However, people will ultimately judge success by the condition of the economy, not the optics. Perhaps Obama has written the this fight off as a relative loser and will be focusing on the coming health care debate or the infrastructure bill. He might be able to achieve some of the economic effects by that means in addition to better management by Treasury officials and such. However, the clock is now running.
My fear is reflected in the title. That he thinks bipartisanship will save us. Fortunately, the President is a very smart man and if he thought that a week ago I’d be surprised if he still thinks it now.