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The Washington Post

Environmentalists Push Obama on Stimulus Priorities

Paul Kane and Michael D. Shear

- In one of the first internal struggles of the incoming Obama
administration, environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying
to shift the priorities of the economic stimulus plan that will be
introduced in Congress next month from allocating tens of billions of
dollars to highways, bridges and other traditional infrastructure
spending to more projects that create so-called "green collar" jobs.

debate has centered on two competing principles in the evolving
stimulus plan: the desire to spend money on what President-elect Barack
Obama calls "shovel-ready projects" such as highway and bridge
construction vs. spending on environmentally conscious projects such as
power grids for wind and solar power.

Lawmakers opposed to the
emerging technology projects accuse their colleagues of using the
financial crisis to push through pricey policy proposals that will do
little to boost the economy in the immediate future.

"If we're
going to call it a stimulus package, it has to be stimulating and has
to be stimulating now. I think there are members of our caucus who are
trying to create a Christmas tree out of this," said Rep. Baron Hill,
D-Ind., incoming co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of 51
fiscally conservative House Democrats.

The largest beneficiary
of the shovel-ready construction projects are labor unions. The
green-collar projects, a key focus of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San
to be fewer in number with the long-term potential to revolutionize the
economy, but often lacking the short-term bounce of old-fashioned
infrastructure building. Not as many of these projects involve union

Talks over the stimulus plan, which could have a
final price tag of anywhere from $675 billion to $850 billion, heated
up over the past week as an unofficial outline emerged of what the bill
would fund. About $200 billion would likely go toward middle-class tax
cuts and tax credits for small businesses and tuition.

negotiators plan to reconvene around New Year's Day to try to hash out
the final details of the plan before the 111th Congress starts Jan. 6,
with a goal of passing a bill out of the House and Senate shortly after
Obama is sworn in Jan. 20.

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