Obama’s Agenda: Circuit Overload?

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 8, 2009 11:42am

President Barack Obama has been on the job less than seven weeks, but already he has proposed sweeping changes — a $787-billion stimulus package, the beginning of a bank plan, improvements in information technology, a cap-and-trade system to cut global warming, and a down payment on health care reform.

Some in Washington wonder if he is taking on too much, too fast.

Today on "This Week" Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said lawmakers have to be careful to not "overload the economy."

"I think that what we’ve got to do is straighten up the economy first.  We’ve got to go to banking.  That will help.  If we take on all these programs, this country is going to be in one heck of an economic mess," Shelby said.

But Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., argued the president can focus on the economy and open the discussion on the environment and health care.

"I think the American people fundamentally understand that he’s focusing on the economy first and foremost. I think there is some confusion.  You know, things happen quickly.  Obviously, the TARP situation was an emergency and it was everyone — frankly, it was a remarkable moment when I saw the candidates for both parties come together on that, realizing we had a crisis of liquidity that — and, you know, I think he’s going to continue to focus on the economy," McCaskill said.

"On the other hand, George … he’s a great communicator.  And I think the American people know that if we keep delaying the health care discussion, if we keep delaying the cap-and- trade discussion and — and the discussion about our environment and global warming, that that is a very, very bad thing for our grandchildren.  And, also, we have to keep focused on deficit reduction," she said.

"But what you’re seeing is a president that’s not afraid to take on all these issues that he knows the American people want reform, they want reform on this.  So it’s tough.  We’ve got to communicate clearly.  We’ve got to make sure that we bring the American people with us, but I think we’ve got the right communicator to do it," McCaskill said.

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., agreed, arguing, "He’s got to try and do two things simultaneously, George, first, be an idealist, look at the problems that face the country and propose bold changes to deal with those.  He’s doing that.  But at the end of the day, he also has to be a pragmatist, and you can’t insist on more than the system can deliver, although you push for all that it can deliver. My sense of this president is that he’s a very practical person.  He wants results.  And at the end of the day, that’s what we’ll deliver."

"I think we have to be careful, not [to] overload the economy. Our thrust should be turning the economy around, and we do that through banks, getting people back to work," Shelby said.

–George Stephanopoulos

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