Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and fellow Democrats are moving quickly to implement Obama’s economic recovery plan. Even before he took office, he won the release of the second half of the $700 billion financial industry bailout that passed Congress last fall. An $825 billion economic stimulus bill is making its way to his desk, with an estimated delivery time of mid-February.
Not surprisingly, congressional Democrats leave their own stamp on the measure, a process to be repeated over and over in the president’s term. That reflects a healthy tension between two branches of government, but is not to be confused with opposition.
Republicans face the first of many decisions as they settle into their new role.
In the Senate, talk of bill-killing filibusters is scarce so far. The GOP now holds only 41 of the 100 seats, with the Minnesota election yet to be settled.
In the House as well as in the Senate, Republicans in safe seats will feel relatively free to oppose the new president. Others will be more inclined to support his program.
Obama’s stated goal as he takes office is to expand the latter group as much as possible.
His pre-presidential days have been marked by calls for bipartisanship, backed up by decisions such as retaining Defense Secretary Robert Gates in office and smaller grace notes he hopes the public and Republicans will notice.
He quietly made it known he was prepared to attend the closed-door weekly lunch held by GOP senators on the same day as last’s week’s meeting with Democrats. He was asked to wait until after the inauguration.
On his final night before moving into the office, Obama attended a dinner in honor of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, his opponent in last fall’s campaign. Pursuing a common purpose rather than political advantage “is built into the very content of his character,” Obama said of the man he ran against.
There was an echo of King in that. In the most famous speech of his life, the civil rights leader said a generation ago he hoped his own children could be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In his inaugural speech, Obama referred to his heritage as “a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant …”
But President Obama’s horizon is far broader than that.
“That we are in the midst of a crisis is now well understood,” he said.
David Espo has covered Washington for the AP for more than a quarter-century.