The House voted today (Wednesday) 244-188 to approve an $819 billion stimulus package of tax cuts and spending, without any Republican support. See House Passes Stimulus Plan Despite GOP Opposition, NY Times, Jan 28, 2009.
What this vote seems to show is that the Republicans--for all their talk about bipartisanship--are going to go for hardline positions. They disliked a tax credit that was refundable to workers who "earn so little that they do not pay income taxes, even though they are subject to the payroll taxes." Id. They complain about the spending--because they wanted more of their own tax cutting approach. The chair of a Republican study group that put forward a GOP alternative of tax cuts (see below), Tom Price of Georgia, had the hutzpah to claim that "after a year of bailouts, rebates and taxpayer-funded backstops, it should be clear to all that the approach of throwing huge sums of money at the problem has utterly failed." Rowland, GOP drafts ideas on stimulus plan, Washington Times, Jan. 19, 2009. There is a sad irony here, given the result of granting tax cut after tax cut for eight years without benefiting the economy.
The GOP proposals are more of the same policies that have dominated discussion for years. See the GOP proposal for the Economic Recovery and Middle-Class Tax Relief Act of 2009, for example, that proposes making the low capital gains rate permanent (a benefit for the most affluent who own most of the financial assets), adding a new, 5% cut "across the board" in income taxes (of primary benefit to the most affluent), and a 10% cut in the top corporate tax rate (a primary benefit for the most affluent corporate managers and shareholders, as well as of some benefit to tax exempts that own considerable stock, if passed on to shareholders rather than "soaked up" by managers), as described in Rowland, GOP drafts ideas on stimulus plan, Washington Times, Jan. 19, 2009. See also the discussion of a "tax and entitlement cuts" starve-the-beast version on the Heritage Foundation site, Foster & Beach, Economic Recovery: How Best to End the Recession, Heritage Foundation, Jan. 7, 2009 (appearing to suggest that the economy is recovering on its own (I guess they aren't counting all the government intervention already required in AIG and other instances that threatened total collapse of the financial system?), and proposing making Bush's 2001-2003 tax cuts permanent or at least extending them another 5 years, reducing the top tax rate on individuals and businesses by 10 percentage points (from 35% statutory rate to 25%, even though the effective tax rate is clearly much lower than the statutory rate already), while of course making significant cuts in "entitlement" spending (by which the Heritage Foundation means Social Security and Medicare, not the percentage depletion allowance or other "entitlement" tax expenditures that benefit Big Oil and other big money).
The Republican vote in the House seems to say that either the GOP will support the old failed policies or they will not support anything. Fine. It seems that a strategic response to this strategic positioning by the Democrats would be to no longer cater to the GOP wishes as was apparently done in the initial design of the stimulus package to include so many wasteful business tax cuts (like bonus depreciation). In the future, the Dems should realize that sweetening the pot a little won't attract the bitter GOP, so they should not bother to try.