The ink from President Obama's signature is barely dry on his first economic stimulus package, yet a top Democrat already is getting ready for another one -- if it should become necessary.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., suggested Wednesday that although it is too early to be moving forward with a new stimulus package, he has directed House Appropriations Committee staff members to begin "preparing options" and ideas for the possibility of another bill to revive the ailing economy.
"It's premature to talk about a second stimulus package. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't be thinking and preparing options for the time when it may become necessary," said Obey, chairman of the committee.
If lawmakers were to passed a new stimulus package, it would mark the third time in a year and the second since Obama took the reins of power in January.
While senior Democratic aides were quick to talk down the prospect of a another stimulus Wednesday, given concerns that Americans may be experiencing "spending fatigue," the story has gotten a bit out of their hands in the last 24 hours.
First, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said at a news conference Tuesday that Democrats are patient for the current package to work but open to another spending plan if necessary.
"It will take a little time to get going, some of it's already in the works, but we must give it time to work," she said. "You have to keep the door open to see how this goes."
At the same event, two economists advising the Democratic caucus acknowledged that Obama's initial stimulus plan is likely to produce a "disappointing" number of jobs and that a second recovery plan may be necessary.
"I think another stimulus package is a reasonable probability given where things are going," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Economy.com.
Later on Tuesday, Obey told one reporter that he had instructed to committee aides to begin putting together an "outline" for another stimulus plan.
Democrats woke up to headlines in a number of news outlets stating that a second spending plan was all but assured.
"It sounds eerily reminiscent of Japan in the '90s. As we all know, they passed numerous fiscal stimulus bills frequently throughout the decade of the '90s...but the Japanese economy looked very much like it did at the beginning of the decade," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "My members are highly skeptical that we can spend our way out of this particular problem."
House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, echoed his concerns, citing the $787 billion stimulus bill, the $410 billion spending measure, Obama's $3.6 trillion budget plan for next fiscal year, and the several trillion dollars that has been loaned to financial firms.
"And now they want to spend more money?" Boehner said. "There is some point at which we will bury our economy under a mountain of debt...at the end of the day, government growing, government spending is not going to solve this problem."
But surrounded by reporters just outside the House floor Wednesday, Obey passionately defended his comment and argued that the whole issue is much ado about nothing.
"We started to prepare options for the stimulus in August of last year and we finally got something that clicked," Obey said in reference to the $787 billion bill that passed congress last month, adding that he regrets the cuts the Senate eventually made to the bill.
"But prudence would dictate that you would anticipate that you might need other things so its a simple routine to begin to prepare possible options if you have a next requirement," he added. "Now most of the economists I talked to said its spectacularly unreasonable to expect to see this stimulus package any time soon. It takes a number of months to get out in the field and to get moving."