Since before Democrats took control of the Senate, its leaders have long pushed to attach contentious bills of any kind to legislation that's considered "must-pass." (See the expanded hate-crimes ban added to 2007's Pentagon authorization, under current leader Harry Reid, and the overpriced national ID-card bill added to 2005's war spending bill, under Republican control).
That tactic helps neutralize the minority's ability to block the bill being attached ... but it also introduces a host of new political considerations to the mix. Would the addition of $50 billion-plus in extra bailout money alienate senators such as Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) -- both of whom voted against releasing rescue funds to Obama last week?
Pairing more financial industry money with economic recovery money means that the stimulus bill will have to be even more carefully calibrated to reflect the priorities of the TARP program's longtime critics. Anyone in Congress who's buying their tickets home for Presidents' Day recess should hold off.