Commentary: Senate has chance to shape bipartisan stimulus bill

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

With the nation's economy sliding ever further into the ditch – a train wreck of bankruptcies, layoffs, foreclosures, budget gaps – there's an urgent need for adult supervision on Capitol Hill.

Why? Because rescue measures must be enacted both promptly and carefully. This is absolutely not the time to seek partisan advantage or to load up an economic stimulus bill with spending not clearly tied to creating or saving jobs – in either case, the legislative equivalent of playing with matches.

The spotlight this week is on the Senate, where the stimulus effort so urgently backed by President Obama is now centered. To be fair to the House, it got things rolling, even if in messy fashion; perhaps what happened there last week was predictable considering the haste, the high stakes and all the temptations that came into play. But the Senate has a chance to undertake a very useful do-over.

At the same time, Obama will have to make it clear in read-my-lips language to members of his own Democratic Party that he's serious about coming up with a bill that at least some Republicans can support. That's not only so Obama can follow through on his pledge of bipartisanship, but also in recognition of the fact that when it comes to a stimulus bill that could cost almost $1 trillion, nobody has a foolproof assembly manual. It's likely to take good ideas from both sides of the aisle to devise an effective package.

The Democratic-controlled House had a reasonable premise – federal spending on worthwhile projects should be the top priority in the government's effort to put Americans back to work or preserve their jobs. The House bill included tax cuts as well, but not to the degree that Republicans wanted.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.