The next week will answer the question whether self proclaimed Republican "Moderates" like Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins will allow the right wing of their party to use them to gut key elements of the Obama Jobs and Economic Recovery Program.
It is no accident that even though the Jobs plan passed the House last night with a huge 56 vote margin, not one Republican voted for the bill. The Republican leadership convinced their members to oppose the bill to set up pressure on Senate Republicans to follow suit. While the votes of Republicans don't matter in the House, the Senate is a different matter.
To cut off debate and pass the legislation, Senate Democrats must muster 60 votes. There are currently 58 Democrats. If Al Franken ultimately prevails in the Minnesota courts, that will provide Democrats with 59. But the court case is unlikely to be concluded before the second week in February. So at least for now, Democrats need at least two Republican votes.
If Republican Leader Mitch McConnell can hold onto every Republican the way House Republican Leader Boehner did last night, he could force Democrats to negotiate away the most critical elements of the package in exchange for the same tax cuts for big business that were the foundation of the failed Bush economic program of the last eight years.
The Republicans want to cut money from the bill for health care, education and other state services. That would lead directly to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in states and localities across the country. They've also targeted provisions in the bill that provide tax relief and benefits to the working poor so they can provide tax savings to their corporate friends.
Most Americans think that the biggest corporations in America have had enough "economic bailout" to last a lifetime. But what's worse is that economists of every stripe agree that the expenditures the Republicans want to cut provide the largest number of jobs per dollar for the economy.
Put money into the pockets of low income workers and they won't save it or use it to pay down debt - or take a European vacation. They'll spend it and create American jobs.
Money that prevents the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, policemen and firemen directly create jobs - and protect services upon which we depend for long term economic success.
The Republicans are trying to replicate the Democrat's unified stance against the privatization of Social Security that began to turn the tide against the right wing assault after Bush's second term victory in 2004. Then Democrats stood firm and refused to provide the votes necessary to consider privatization in the Senate.
But there is a big difference between the 2005 battle to stop the privatization of Social Security and the Obama Jobs and Economic Recovery plan: the shape of the battlefield.
In 2005 Democrats had the high political ground - by the time Republicans made their move, privatization was becoming politically radioactive. Today's Jobs and Economic Recovery plan has been proposed by an extremely popular President, to cope with a grave crisis with proposals that are very politically popular. In other words the Republicans have decided to make their stand in a political ditch.
The key battle ground will be increasingly-Democratic New England. All eyes will be on Republican Senators Collins and Snowe of Maine and politically vulnerable Judd Greg of New Hampshire. If McConnell can convince them to vote against ending debate on the motion to bring the jobs bill to the floor, they will empower the right wing to demand more of the same failed "trickle down" Bush economic policies as the price of passage. And if he succeeds, McConnell will set a precedent for all of the legislative battles to come.
Collins, Snowe and Gregg all represent areas that have been hard hit by the recession. Will they prove themselves true "moderates" -- independents who represent the interests of New England's working families who desperately need jobs? Or will they hand the keys over to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell the rest of the crowd that just keep mouthing the old failed Bush economic nostrums, and want to shower the rich with more tax giveaways as they blindly drive America off an economic cliff?
Time for everyone in New England - time for all of us - to let Senators Collins, Snowe and Gregg know in no uncertain terms that the we must turn the page on the failed Bush economic program and take action to create jobs now.
Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.