by digby

It's clear the Blue Dogs were calling shots behind the scenes in the House, but in the Senate the egos are too big for them not to get before the cameras and preen.

And so it begins:

The Washington Post reported this morning that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) “remains undecided about the bill“:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who remains undecided about the bill, said he opposes money going to research projects at the National Institutes of Health and about $13 billion for Pell grants that help students pay for college. Nelson says the measures are worthy but do not belong in legislation designed to stimulate the economy.

Despite what Nelson says, both increased NIH funding and money for Pell grants are actually a wise use of stimulus dollars.

According to Fox News, Nelson convened a meeting in his Senate office today with Senate Republicans and some Democrats who are seeking “common ground on how they can improve the $819 billion economic stimulus bill.” Nelson’s meeting included Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).

In an interview with Fox News after the meeting, Nelson said he didn’t know how many Democrats, let alone Republicans, would vote for the stimulus plan “as it stands today”:

HEMMER: No Republicans voted for this measure in the House. Do you know of any Republicans on the Senate side that will vote yes as it stands today?

NELSON: I don’t know, I don’t even know how many Democrats will vote for it as it stands today because a lot of my colleagues are not decided. They’re undecided on the bill as it is right now. Fortunately, we don’t have to take the vote on it right now. We have an opportunity to make some improvements.

I'm sure the Obama campaign was prepared for this. It is after all, written into the Democratic Party bylaws that conservative Democratic Senators must put the new Dem president in his place and make sure that no one in the country ever get the idea that he is really in charge.

This may be kabuki. McCaskill is a super Obama friend and may be playing a role on his behalf to help him gain a handful of Republican votes so they can call it bipartisan. (Let's hope they don't give away the store to do it...) But, the end result is the same, whether Obama is part of it or not. Conservative values and economic shibboleths will have been validated and going forward we will have to re-fight the battle from square one.

Everyone had better hope this stimulus works extremely well and doesn't require any tweaking because in only one short week Republican profligacy is now forgotten and the conservatives have been affirmed as guardians of the public purse again. They have already taken back one of their most important points of power and they will use it. Their leader has said unequivocally that he wants Obama to fail, and he's telling the truth.

Update: Speaking of bipartisanship, apparently Obama is thinking of appointing Republican Judd Gregg for the Commerce secretary. Gregg voted against the stimulus and SCHIP just this week, so its hard to see what he brings to the bipartisanship table or how that helps advance Obama's agenda. But that's the weird reality we have in DC since the Democrats won decisive mandate.

But this is just odd:

James Pindell, who has covered New Hampshire politics since 2002, tells Political Wire that the odds of Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) taking the job of secretary of commerce are currently 65-35 if offered.

But Pindell notes that Gov. John Lynch (D), who would choose Gregg's replacement in the Senate, "is the type of guy that would pick a Republican just because he is replacing a Republican and to bone up his bi-partisan credibility. Lynch has yet to comment on the issue -- heck Gregg has yet to be appointed -- but right now the money is on former Gov. Walter Peterson (R). He was chair of the 'Republicans for Lynch' committee, would vote with Democrats as much as Maine's Senators do, and most likely wouldn't run in 2010."

It's all the rage.