Michael Grunwald’s “The New New Deal” details the $787 billion stimulus passed in the early days of President Barack Obama’s presidency, and offers the back story of Senate arm-twisting needed to secure the votes.
Among the revelations in Grunwald’s book is an anecdote recalling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to push three veteran Republicans to vote for the bill — by guilt-tripping them over former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s brain cancer.
Without vote commitments from the Republicans he had hoped to push his direction, Reid brought Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Thad Chochran of Mississippi and Mike Enzi of Wyoming to his office to appeal for their votes.
“He was basically pleading for our votes,” Grassely said, according to Grunwald. “He said: ‘You all know something needs to be done. The Democrats did TARP for Bush. You’ve got to look past the substance.’”
When his initial plea did not work, Reid reportedly told the three Republicans that he needed their votes so that he would not need to bring Kennedy — at the time battling brain cancer — back to work to end a filibuster.
“He said if you can’t vote with us, we’re going to have to bring Kennedy to the floor, and it really could kill him,” Grassely said. “We looked at each other like: Huh?”