On Stimulus, White House Kept Congress Close

Prez still didn't get much GOP support
By Gabriel Winant,  Newser User
Posted Feb 17, 2009 12:36 PM CST
Led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, center, lawmakers announce agreement on the $789 billion stimulus, Feb. 11, 2009. Reid is joined by Sen. Susan Collins, left, and Sen. Arlen Specter.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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(Newser) – President Obama promised a new spirit of cooperation in Washington, and in his relationship with Congress, he did his best to deliver, the Wall Street Journal reports. Obama left congressional leaders wide leeway in crafting the stimulus bill and stayed in close touch with members. Joe Biden stayed on pivotal senators like Susan Collins, calling her back repeatedly in rural Maine.

When the president sought to mollify centrist senators by hacking out billions, the Congressional Black Caucus revolted in defense of school construction funds. Obama accommodated them, too. But ultimately only a few Republican senators, and no representatives, voted for the bill. The lesson? Says Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “He has an open hand, but he has a very firm handshake.”