February 11th, 2009
10:00 AM ET
9 years ago

Specter: I'll take my chances


Watch Sen. Arlen Specter's interview from American Morning Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN)– One of the three moderate Republican senators who voted in favor of the stimulus package says he's aware of the political danger he's putting himself in.

"I understand the peril, but I didn't run for the United States Senate to further my own political interests," Sen. Arlen Specter said on CNN's American Morning. "I think when you have a decision like the one that we're facing now, there's only one way to respond, and that's to respond with action."

Specter and Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republicans to back the $838 billion bill that passed the Senate yesterday. All three senators were involved in cutting spending proposals from the original plan crafted by Democrats, and all three have said they may not vote for the final version of the bill if more spending projects are added to the legislation by House Democrats.

"If somebody else in the Republican Party had stepped up to do the negotiations, to handle it, I would have been glad to step aside," Specter told American Morning anchor John Roberts.

The five-term senator from Pennsylvania said that with the economy facing a possible catastrophe, "the only responsible thing to do is to support the package. And bear in mind, the Republican moderates' program got $110 billion cut. We got the backing of the United States Chamber of Commerce, which is a very conservative Republican organization. They know the economy better than perhaps anybody, because they're in touch with so many thousands of businesses and they say the economy requires it."

Neither Collins or Snowe face re-election in 2010, but Specter does. He faced a bruising primary battle in 2004 against then-Republican Rep. Pat Toomey, a fiscal conservative.

The National Republican Trust PAC, an influential conservative political action committee, is pledging to support primary challengers to any Republican senator who supports stimulus package backed by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats - the latest public show of dissatisfaction from the right over the massive measure before Congress.

"Republican senators are on notice. If they support the stimulus package, we will make sure every voter in their state knows how they tried to further bankrupt voters in an already bad economy," said Scott Wheeler, executive director of the PAC, which calls for less government spending and lower taxes.

When asked about the possible political backlash from his vote supporting the bill, Specter said "it's a good plan - not a perfect plan, but a good plan - and I'll take my chances."

soundoff (210 Responses)
  1. Gerry In Toronto

    Finally, a republican who thinks country first. He will be rewarded by his voters.

    February 11, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. ran

    Let the NRT do their thing and they will allow another democrat into the senate. Specter is being a legislator which is what our founders wanted and what we the people wanted and is needed now more then ever. Once an election is over then those elected need to put party last and the country first. The republicans just do not get it. Maybe when we have 70-80 Democrats in the senate they will;but I have my doubts.

    February 11, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. Felines for Freedom

    If Spectre is punished for doing what he thinks is right as opposed to what his party wanted him to do, then the voters of America have no one to blame for the continued failed policy of politics as usual. PA voters, please reward this man's courage to stand up to his party and do what he thinks is right in 2010, even if you personally disagree with the decision. Because its better to have an independent thinker in office who is willing to do what they think is right then a party lackey, regardless of party affiliation.

    February 11, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  4. Kent

    We need more courageous Americans like Senator Specter. Thank you, Senator, for being the voice of reason from your party.

    February 11, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  5. Jim

    Yeah, right, Specter - just like Rahm Emanuel - who said in November:

    "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

    February 11, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Bonnie Kimberly

    I hope Mr Specter does not pay too high a price for having a soul.

    February 11, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  7. Humble American

    As a Democrat from Pennsylvania, I thank and applaud Senator Specter for standing up and "doing the right thing". Ladies and Gentlemen, Republicans and Democrats, this man has a history of standing up for what is right....and, as an unemployed Chef (just laid off) I appreciate it.

    February 11, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  8. Susan from S Illinois

    Good for him! I'm glad to see that he is not going to waver from his beliefs in the face of strongarm tactics aimed at intimidating him! If these tactics are representative of the future Republican Party, their demise as a viable Party is on the horizon.

    February 11, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. Sniffit

    GOP knows it needs to happen. GOP votes weren't needed in the House, so none of them voted for it and threw an epic hissy fit. They can't afford to filibuster, so in the Senate, they chose a couple members as the swing vote...to secure the more questionable GOP seats. This allowed the rest of the GOP Senators to continue frothing at the mouth while the other 3 claim bipartisan hero status for their constituents, better securing the seat. The PAC threat is a sham to lend legitimacy to it...following it through would lose them those 3 seats for sure.

    February 11, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. Scott Hughes in Atlanta

    Thank you Senator.

    February 11, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. phili

    At least some republicans remember why the people send them to the senate.

    February 11, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. Sniffit

    Nothing more transparent in DC than GOP games.

    February 11, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  13. jfs Memhis, Tn

    He will win his state . GOP leaders in Ga, Ala, Ms, Tx, etc. do not have a handle on the needs of his constituents. Frankly, how dare they !!! The audacity !!! Would they want someone from Pa showing up and try to give reading programs to the bulk of conservative voters in their states ???? Even if meant that their folks may become better informed voters ????

    February 11, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  14. Mike

    Senators Specter, Snowe and Collins deserve the admiration and gratitude of the nation. If more politicians had the strength to act on their own conviction of what is right, rather than follow the herd, rather than the expedient to get re-elected, we would not be in this crisis.

    On a lighter side, you might consider renaming the stimulus plan "an economic surge."

    That way John McCain would understand it, indeed trumpet it as his idea, and help sell it to Republicans!

    February 11, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  15. Independent-Fred

    Seeing the Sexist & racist undertones of the primaries brought my distain for Democrats above the GOP.

    Leave it to these clueless dopes to regain their #1 slot. The country's economy is on the edge and all these clowns do is spew ideology. The question is no

    These three Repubs come forward and get allot of spending cut now they're being threatend?!?

    February 11, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  16. JMac

    Good for Specter, Snowe and Collins. It's time to do something to get us out of this mess that Bush got us into.
    Let's hope it works so the sake of the country!

    February 11, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  17. Steph

    I strongly support the three moderate Republicans who are brave enough to do the right thing. I'm so sick of the obstructionist bullies in the RNC.

    February 11, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  18. Frank the Tank

    Maine is such a welfare state, it's no wonder Snowe and Collins stood behind the plan...

    February 11, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  19. Colin

    "'I understand the peril, but I didn't run for the United States Senate to further my own political interests,' Sen. Arlen Specter said..."

    Wow. Too bad the rest of the Republicans in Congress don't seem to feel that way. Then we might actually get somewhere. Now this is one Republican I can support.

    February 11, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  20. Ray Fisher, Albuquerque, NM

    I for one will remember the Republican's shameful actions during the stimulus debate, whether they supported it or not they dissed our President which the Dems never dissed their idiot in charge. A spirited debate is always invited in a democracy but to backstab the President while he has his hand out in fellowship and trying to compromise is wose than being a Judas to America!!! The Republicans are totally lacking in honor and respect!!!

    February 11, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. Deb

    It's refreshing to see a politician put country before self interest. It took a brave republican to step up.

    February 11, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  22. John

    Thank you, Senator Specter, for having the confidence and wisdom to forget partisan game playing to vote for something that will help move our country forward. It may not be perfect, but at least the Democrats have the guts to put SOMETHING out there and then stand behind it. The Republicans are sad, losing wimps. Greedy and selfish and arrogant.

    Thank you, Specter, Snowe and Collins for putting American First....

    February 11, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. tina

    Good for him!

    February 11, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  24. Jozee

    Mr. Specter, who has had a couple of serious battles with cancer, knows up close and personal how fragile life can be. He has chosen to put "Country First" by steping up to the plate and supporting what he believes is best for his country and his constituents. Good for him. He puts John McCain to shame on many levels by being a true Maverick.

    CNN, please don't keep my comments in moderation.

    February 11, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  25. 2 for Specter

    Although my husband and I have never been big fans of Sen. Arlen Specter ... WE ARE NOW!!!!

    February 11, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
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