This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from February 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I can't tell you with 100 percent certainty that every single item this plan will work exactly as we hoped. But what I can tell you is that I can say with complete confidence that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will only bring deepening disaster.
SEN. MIKE ENZI, R-WYO.: The federal government has maxed out its credit card. But while most Americans are wisely trimming the fat of their budgets, reexamining their spending patterns, and focusing on what is truly essential, Congress hasn't smartened up yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: There you see Republican senator from Wyoming Mike Enzi talking about the economic stimulus plan, and President Obama on the road today pitching this plan in Elkhart, Indiana.
The Senate has set up to vote a final vote tomorrow at noon on what is now an $838 billion economic stimulus plan.
Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for The Chicago Sun-Times, and Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio.
Juan, you saw the president out there in Elkhart today really in a campaign-style event pitching this plan. Is it working?
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it is working, if you look at the polls right now. His ratings are just terrific. He's close to 70 percent in terms of favorability rating.
If you look at the rating of congressional Democrats right now, it's about 20 points higher than it is for congressional Republicans.
And In terms of specifically the stimulus plan, again, most of the American people say yes, we like this stimulus package — not as high as the White House would like it, but today, the president and his White House aides were all about polls, all about saying these polls are very positive, very good.
That is a little bit of a turnaround from last week when we were looking at the stimulus package, and saw it was about 38 percent said they liked that stimulus package, because I think the message from Republicans is that there is a lot of pork in this package, a lot of unnecessary spending that is going to weigh down future generations, was getting through.
But something must have shifted, because this is the same Gallup poll, and it has very different result.
BAIER: Lynn, he is setting up for this prime time news conference tonight where he will again pitch and talk directly to the American people. But this plan that has passed the Senate so far still has a lot of stuff in there that, potentially, Republicans say, should be cut.
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Yes, but the decision is do the Republicans want to offer up enough — what can the Republicans do to change it?
Right now, as long as they have the three moderate Republicans who voted with them, they really hold the key. So when we talk about Republicans in the abstract, they might be unhappy, but really all the Obama team has to do is keep Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter happy.
They are threatening, especially Susan Collins, to not vote on the final package if it's not to their liking.
So as we talk about this, I think it's helpful to abstract out Republicans in general, and three, specifically, who seem to hold the key to the kingdom right now.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, they do. But if you only have three Republicans, it is not a bipartisan bill by any stretch of the imagination.
I mean, when Democrats claimed that when George W. Bush got ten Republicans to vote for his tax cuts back in 2001, they all said only ten Democrats, that's not bipartisan. This isn't either.
The strategy that Obama, the president, and his aides are using is one called a "panic strategy," in other words to say things are so terrible, if we don't pass this immediately, including a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with stimulating the economy or even ameliorating some of the pain of the recession, if we don't get it passed, as the president said today, he said it will be a "darkening disaster."
Remember he said it will "take a crisis and make it a catastrophe." He said today in Elkhart, Indiana, he said the situation we face could not be more serious.
Yes, it could. It was more serious in the recession, at the same time in the recession of 1981-'82, and the one from '73 to '75. After all, you know, it went up to 10.8 percent unemployment in the recession in the early '80's.
He said economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don't act immediately, millions of jobs will be lost. Some have, and some haven't.
BAIER: Juan, for people out there wanting this thing to be cleaned up, in this Senate bill there is still $198 million in lump sum payments to Filipino Veterans of World War II, two-thirds of whom live outside the U.S.
No one is saying that is not the right thing to do in an appropriations process, but there are a lot of critics that say some of this stuff is not stimulating.
WILLIAMS: Right. Some of it, to my mind, there's more than that. There are things there that you would just say look like ornaments on a Christmas tree, that everyone is throwing in whatever they can at this moment. And you will see more of this as the governors get involved and make their pitch what exactly they want.
The folks in Elkhart, by the way, want a movie theater renovated. You say, well, exactly what-the Obama folks say this is going to create jobs, this is going to help people.
And I think that the risk — Fred says, it's not going to ameliorate some of the hurt. But when people in the country have such great anxiety about their 401Ks, about job losses, they want to see the government take some steps, and this is a proactive government saying we're taking steps to get you help right now.
BAIER: And, Lynn, last word, in the conference where the House and Senate come together, there isn't real hope that it's going to go down from here, is there?
SWEET: History shows that these things go up, because that's how you put the coalition together. But the point isn't the specific things that the mayor or the governors or might spend it on. And, as Obama has said, there might be stuff that might make jobs but might not seem like good policy. But that is the smallest part of some of the objections to this. The mega-road and bridge projects, that's what they hope — the deadlines are in the bill on it — that's what they hope could at least create jobs.
Big question, balance of tax cuts over spending — still to be resolved.
BAIER: There is a new fight breaking out in Washington over who gets to supervise the census.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They shifted to the White House. To me, this politicizes the census, which is not something we should be doing.
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BAIER: Who gets to run the numbers in 2010? We will break it down after the break.
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REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: I think the issue at the end of the day, we should all agree, is that we want the facts and accuracy in the count. And it seems to me that the more eyes taking a look at this, the better.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: The Constitution says that every ten years there will be a count of all persons who live in the United States. That means that we need to have an actual count.
And why this has to be moved from the commerce department over to the chief of staff's office — I would think he would have better things to do than to coordinate the census.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: They are talking about the 2010 Census and the supervision of the census being moved to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel inside the White House, really trumping, if you will, the commerce department. At least that's one of the proposals out there.
The White House says from the first days of the transition the census has been a priority for the president and a process he wanted to reevaluate, but they really won't say why the switch.
We're back with the panel. Fred, why is this morning?
BARNES: The census is enormously important. You start with the Electoral College. It can determine whether some state holds on to one of its votes in the Electoral College or loses it to another state.
Remember Utah wanted another vote in the Electoral College and came so close to getting that fourth congressional seat, which would have given it one more. But the census in 2000 would not count Mormon young people who were overseas on their missions.
So it's enormously important in the Electoral College, in spending, because so many spending programs are based on what the population of a state or a district is.
And then it's congressional redistricting as well. It depends on what the population is in some place.
So it's enormously important. And what I want to hear from is Judd Gregg, the nominee for the Commerce Department. I can't believe that he would stand by and take this job from Barack Obama if is he going to have his work superintended by Rahm Emanuel in the White House.
BAIER: Lynn, it's how this count would happen, right?
SWEET: We have a few issues here. First of all, just in supervisory matters here, if I can clear this up, it is not a foregone conclusion that the Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is going to have any hands on work here.
What happened was that when Richardson inflamed out as the commerce nominee and Gregg came in, there was a lot of concern by people who were deeply involved in census issues, Democrats, because Gregg was seen as somebody as not as friendly to census issues as they would like.
I think what happened is that the White House said that we'll be involved with senior management. I do think it's a little bit different than saying there is going to be run out of the White House. What it means is, for the moment, they had to take care of their Democratic brothers and sisters just to get him through confirmation.
BAIER: Because there is a different way to count. They can estimate different areas?
SWEET: Now we go to an issue that has been around for years and years. That's what Representative Boehner was talking about — do we literally count you and you and you, or do we use something called "statistical sampling," where we could extrapolate where people live in some places where it's hard to get them.
BAIER: Which arguably could help Democratic constituents?
SWEET: Because the place where you need statistical sampling is an area where it is hard to find people. And what do you think? Those are places that are usually Democratic strongholds. That argument exists independent of who is going to really run the show.
WILLIAMS: There is a lot of pressure coming from Hispanics and blacks on the White House and on President Obama specifically. Loud voices like Barbara Lee saying you are putting a Republican in, and that's good for bipartisanship, but you may end up sacrificing the census and damaging Democratic efforts going forward.
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