First 100 Days: The Stimulus Package

President Barack Obama is now through a quarter of his First 100 Days.

On the most important issue of his young administration and the most important issue facing the nation, the economy, critics say President Obama has already come up short. Wall Street has initially been unimpressed with the Treasury Department’s plans. Some liberals in Congress have found him less supportive of their bigger plans, while conservatives have decided not to go along with his effort at economic recovery.

The President has struggled with several cabinet appointments, the Commerce Secretary twice, and an embarrassing dance with bipartisanship with New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg that backfired when Gregg decided he’s too conservative for the Administration. It’s less a team of rivals than a team of not so much rivals.

But who will the public blame?

In time, the public usually forgets these occurrences. The big picture: jobs, 401k’s and the overall economy matter. Republicans run the risk of not appearing principled, as they would like, but rather as obstructionists who care more about future power than the solvency of the nation. On the other hand, if President Obama and the Democratic Congress have failed to construct an adequate rescue or the increased debt turns out to be a burden compounding or leading to other problems such as a more dangerous devaluing of the dollar, the Republicans will claim victory. I’m not certain such a claim will resonate, even if correct.

Insiders tell me they think eight years of Republican rule in the White House have temporarily inoculated President Obama for at least a year or two. But, in the first 25 days, the Obama Administration has had enough missteps to serve as a warning to the administration that inconsistency and the appearance of not being having their act together cannot continue if he is to be an effective President.

In a conference call, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, said this bill is emergency money and that accountability measures are strong. “It’s time to vote to help President Obama get the economy out of the ditch before it goes over the cliff. We’re at a precarious point right now. I mean that,” Casey said.

I asked Casey what he thinks of Republicans unanimously voting against the bill in the House and only a few GOP Senators supporting it in the Senate. I asked him in the context of Casey calling the situation dire and in his words, “looking down the barrel of a gun.”

I postulated that when the nation goes to war, in most cases people in both parties discuss it, some or many express disagreement, but then most back the President. I then asked him that if this situation is so dire, so precarious, what do you as a Democrat say to the Republicans who refused to back the President? In what can only be interpreted as a careful, but damning statement against Congressional Republicans, Senator Casey told me, “It’s not the time to put Party before the economic strength of the country.”

Congressional Republicans are either right in this case about the expenditures in the bill and whether it will work, or they will be perceived in the end as having hoped the President failed. It’s possible they will be perceived that way even if they are right. And, if they are right, we are in deeper trouble.

It is worth thinking about that moderate Republicans in swing districts were obviously were pressured to vote against the bill, despite their mixed constituencies?

I spoke with Democratic members of Congress Friday, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County and Philadelphia and freshman U.S. Representative John Adler of Camden County.

Congressman Adler told me these first weeks on the job he has felt the pressure of the problem but has felt “enormously excited” about working toward fixing the economy. He is glad Congress acted “so quickly” and adds, however, that we still have to get our financial system in order.

Adler predicts that Congress will turn to that next to make sure abuses don’t happen again.

As for only a handful of Republican members of the Senate supporting the President, Congressman Adler told me, he is “saddened that people of both parties didn’t work together… on what is an American problem.” He is “disappointed”, for example, that Republicans, who like tax cuts, wouldn’t join in on the big tax cuts that are in the act.

Congresswoman Schwartz, speaking to reporters via a conference call, said the bill was “significant and bold” and necessary because of “this dire situation.” I asked her what she would say to mayors and governors who say their needs are not met by this bill and she says, “We can’t do every project.”

As for transparency, she said it’s her understanding that there are no earmarks in the bill, but she admits she hasn’t been able to read all of it. “Can I say that I’ve seen every line of this? I admit I have not.” But, Schwartz goes on to say she was been in touch with committee chairs about what’s in the bill and she hopes there are no earmarks. But, she adds, a bill had to be passed. “Doing nothing was not an option.”

On the stimulus bill that made it out of both houses of Congress, environmentalists are generally very happy.

I spoke with Adam Garber, of Penn Environment, who lobbied for the bill in Washington, D.C. Garber told me he expects Pennsylvania to benefit more than most states. We have a number of “shovel ready” projects, and some companies that will benefit happen to have businesses here in the Commonwealth, such as games in Bucks County.

This is the biggest environmental initiative in decades, particularly on the renewable or clean energy side, said Garber. This is a “huge leap forward,” he said.

He believes with this bill, environmentalists will also be able to prove how going green does create jobs and they see that as then fueling more energy initiatives. Garber and other environmentalists also don’t expect this to be the end of the story from the White House or Congress.

They believe more will be coming from President Obama to drive the nation toward 25-percent of its energy from renewables by 2025. Before this stimulus/recovery act, Pennsylvania at best was on an eight to nine percent renewable track.

Last week, I mentioned how Renee Amoore, deputy chair of the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee, had withdrawn her candidacy for co-chair of the Republican National Committee, after Michael Steele won the chairmanship.

Amoore had told me prior to the vote that race would not be a factor. I wondered if after time to think about it, if she still felt that way? Renee Amoore told me, “The reason I withdrew is… he’s from Maryland; I’m from Pennsylvania. They don’t want people that close together. Everybody thought it was the race issue. It really wasn’t.” She adds, “The other thing is that we (Steele and she) were not on the Committee. People in the RNC wanted at least one of those two seats to be people already on the RNC Committee.”

I asked again about whether race was even a little bit of an issue and Renee Amoore said, “You want to keep pushing that. No… race is not an issue.”

NBC10 Political Analyst Steve Highsmith is following President Barack Obama’s First 100 Days online

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