Centrist Dems Start Rebelling on Obama’s Spending Plans

March 4, 2009 4:30 a.m.

The first Democrat to signal his opposition to the Obama administration’s $410 billion 2009 spending bill was Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ), who suggested that his vote might be in jeopardy if provisions loosening the Cuban trade embargo were kept in the measure.

But Menendez’s complaints look like a drop in the bucket compared with the brewing rebellion among centrist Democrats who aren’t sure they can support Obama’s push to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans. Politico reports that 14 Dem senators (and Joe Lieberman, naturally) are meeting behind closed doors to discuss their discomfort with Obama’s $3.55 trillion 2010 budget.

Before the budget even comes to a vote, however, the 2009 spending bill must be taken care of — and one of those centrist Dems, Evan Bayh (IN), is urging Obama to veto the $410 billion measure in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today. From Bayh’s piece (emphasis mine):

The omnibus debate is not merely a battle over last year’s unfinished business, but the first indication of how we will shape our fiscal future. Spending should be held in check before taxes are raised, even on the wealthy. Most people are willing to do their duty by paying taxes, but they want to know that their money is going toward important priorities and won’t be wasted.

Does that fiscal-discipline argument against the spending bill sound familiar? Ah, right, House Republicans made it last week. Also, could someone remind Bayh that he voted against the Bush tax cuts that he’s now unwilling to see expire?

Late Update: You could’ve seen this coming, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was so pleased with Bayh’s op-ed that he formally inserted it into the Congressional Record this morning. From McConnell’s speech:

As the junior senator from Indiana put it this morning in an insightful Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, this bill was drafted last year, and ‘Since then, economic and fiscal circumstances have changed dramatically which is why’ — as he put it — ‘the Senate should go back to the drawing board.’

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