By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 2009
CHICAGO, Feb. 15 -- Senior advisers to President Obama on Sunday defended passage of the economic stimulus bill in Congress as a bipartisan effort, even though it received only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House.
Speaking on the Sunday-morning talk shows, press secretary Robert Gibbs and senior adviser David Axelrod insisted that the massive spending and tax-cut bill reflected ideas from both political parties.
"Their suggestions have been taken seriously, Bob," Gibbs told Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation." "We'll continue to reach out to them. It's an outreach plan that includes, as you said, more than just Wednesday-night cocktails. We're going to listen for their ideas. This president is willing to listen to anybody who has got an idea that will help get this economy moving and get people back to work."
Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday" that "old habits die hard." But, he added, "the package reflects the thinking of members of both parties. And I think that over time . . . there'll be a positive effect of just having dialogue, of just talking, which has not happened for a long time in this town."
That idea was rejected by senior Republicans. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) called Obama's first few weeks "a bad beginning."
Appearing on CNN, he said: "It was a bad beginning because it wasn't what we promised the American people, what President Obama promised the American people, that we would sit down together."
McCain's friend and Republican colleague in the Senate, Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, was harsher, saying on ABC's "This Week": "If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country is screwed."
Axelrod also addressed the ongoing bailout of the auto industry, saying that the car manufacturers will have to undergo "significant restructuring" if they are going to continue to receive public assistance.
"And that's going to involve concessions on the part of everyone, not just the autoworkers, but shareholders, creditors and, of course, the executives who run the company," Axelrod said.
Gibbs and Axelrod sought to tamp down expectations that passage of the stimulus plan would lead to immediate economic recovery. Both said the unemployment rate is likely to go as high as 10 percent before things get better.
"The acceleration in job loss probably means that this economy is going to get worse before it gets better," Gibbs said on CBS.