Commentary: Bickering over stimulus plan must stop

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

In the three weeks since President Barack Obama took the oath of office, the need to act quickly to save the collapsing economy has become more evident. Last week's announcement that employers shed 598,000 positions in January – bringing the total number of lost jobs since the start of the recession to 3.6 million – was only the latest sign that this is no ordinary cyclical downturn but rather a crisis of frightening proportions.

That's all the more reason for urgency, but don't tell that to Mr. Obama's critics. The stimulus bill was approved in the House without a single Republican vote, and on Tuesday it won Senate passage with only three votes from the GOP.

Some claim to oppose the stimulus plan out of principle over the role of government in the economy, or out of genuine disagreement over the bill's provisions. But so far the critics have failed to make a strong case, and their determination to stick together despite calls for bipartisanship suggests that politics is the real driving force of the debate.

Mr. Obama's efforts to surmount political division go beyond gestures such as having Republicans over to the White House. He has made substantive concessions, calling for more tax cuts than many Democrats favored, agreeing to adjustments in the alternative minimum tax and dropping other stimulus provisions opposed by Republicans. ''This is not about partisan politics,'' Gov. Charlie Crist said on Tuesday in introducing the president to an audience in Fort Myers. His GOP colleagues in Congress don't seem to be listening, however. They have condemned the stimulus package as a stinker that should be replaced by a package of huge tax cuts. Been there, done that, the Democrats reply, and we would have to agree. That's how we got into this desperate situation in the first place.

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