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Liberal Group Praises Crossover Republicans as Minority Leaders Balk at Partisanship

Feb. 6, 2009: Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine talks to reporters on her way to a meeting on Capitol Hill about economic recovery (AP Photo).

Usually, Americans United for Change buys ads to lambaste Republicans for opposing issues backed by the liberal, union-supported issue advocacy group initially founded in 2005 to rally against President Bush's Social Security reform plan. 

But when three Republicans crossed the aisle over the weekend to say they will support a compromise economic recovery plan opposed by every other Senate minority Republican, Americans United for Change bought up radio time urging voters to call and thank Sens. Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter for "providing the leadership we need to get the job done."

"Senators Snowe and Collins have worked with President Obama and other senators to reach
agreement on a plan that has support from a broad range of groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce and organized labor," says the new ad out in the senators' state of Maine Sunday. "Call Senators Snowe and Collins today at 202-224-3121. Thank them for their leadership and tell them to keep fighting for a plan to get our economy moving again."

The group called the actions by Snowe and Collins "leadership" rather than "bipartisanship," a label other Republicans have also declined to use to describe their colleagues. 

"This agreement is not bipartisan," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told CBS' "Face the Nation." 

"I've been in bipartisan agreements, many. This is three Republican senators. Every Republican congressman voted against it in the House, plus Democrats. And all but three Republicans stayed together on this. That's not bipartisanship. That's just picking off a couple of senators," McCain said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, must try to defend and pick up Senate seats for the GOP, balked Sunday at claims that the $800 package of spending and tax cuts intended to stimulate the economy was achieved through bipartisan collaboration.

"Having three Republicans, potentially, support it in the Senate out of 535 members of Congress is hardly a bipartisan effort. I think it's a disappointment -- surely must be for President Obama," Cornyn told "FOX News Sunday." 

He added he fully expects the bill to pass "with almost exclusively Democratic support."

With a majority of the public now opposing the existing package, President Obama must now try to sell the bill of goods before its final passage. He is going to Elkhart, Ind., on Monday -- where unemployment has jumped from 4.7 percent to 15.3 percent -- to hold a town hall meeting and then gives his first prime time press conference on Monday night. On Tuesday, he heads to an event in Ft. Myers, Fla., an area with the highest rate of foreclosures in the country. 

Obama's efforts to get more Republicans on board may have been stymied late last week when he appeared to mock those who claimed the massive package was too heavy on spending -- like $1 billion for corrections to the 2010 Census that has yet to take place -- that opponents say doesn't offer any stimulative impact.

"Then you get the argument, 'Well, this is not a stimulus bill. This is a spending bill.' What do you think a stimulus is?" he told laughing House Democrats at an issues retreat in Williamsburg, Va.

National Economic Council Chairman Larry Summers said Sunday Obama has "walked a long mile" when it comes to offering bipartisanship -- meeting with the Republican caucuses and sending his advisers to Capitol Hill.  

"The president was very strongly criticized by many in his own party for the fact that the measure includes more than a third tax cuts, including several major tax cuts for business," Summers added, speaking on ABC's "This Week." 

"President Obama is making a real effort to make sure this is a bipartisan product," said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. "I know that we don't have as many Republican votes as we would like but I can tell you the Republicans have added to the package. When you take a look at -- which will pass in the Senate, it is balanced between tax cuts and investments, so this is a bipartisan product and takes time to develop."

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said if Obama really wanted to be bipartisan, he would listen to Republicans who insist that more money is needed on freeing up credit spending and helping the housing market than on government funding for state programs and other aid. 

"What I object to this about is the disconnect between what the president is saying and proposing and what we're doing. I mean they're saying, 'We won the election. We'll write the bill,'" said Alexander, one of six Senate Republicans to vote for the second half of a $350 billion bailout for financial institutions now being distributed by the administration. 

"They're borrowing $1 trillion and spending it. ... I don't remember (Obama) promising to borrow $1 trillion and spend it on projects that mostly don't stimulate us. ...

"President Obama can pass the bill with this tone and legislation but it will make for a less successful presidency and he'll have a really hard time when he gets to banks, more housing, entitlement, health care. This is not bipartisan working across party lines to exchange ideas and get results," he added.

As the wide Democratic majority and a few Republicans sprinkled in makes passage of the legislation almost inevitable, even supporters of the package say they aren't certain any of the plans will work. Still, something is better than nothing, they argue.

"There's disagreement at the margins over the specific programs. But overall, you've got to do something. ... There is a lot of money that goes into infrastructure and science. A lot of money that goes into programs of education and helping states on education. Is that going to turn dollars over in the economy and get people spending again? I think the common sense answer is 'yes,' said Sen. Bill Nelson, R-Fla.

"I would confess there is some spending that I would do differently and I think each member of the United States Senate would say the same thing," Cardin told FOX News. "This is not about a bill that Senator Cardin has drafted. It is a bill that we have come together on. It is well targeted to provide the type of investments that America needs to be competitive in the future."

As for Collins, while she is ready to tear off from her fellow Republicans and get the bill sent to the president's desk as quickly as possible, she said if it comes back to the Senate from the conference committee with the House "once again bloated with wasteful spending and it's too expensive, then I'll vote against it."

FOXNews.com's Sharon Kehnemui Liss contributed to this report.