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. Bridgette-PA

    Way to go Specter! If you don't stand for something......you'll fall for anything!

    February 11, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. Spencer/Hampton Roads, VA

    Good gamble senator

    February 11, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. Bill S

    If Specter, Snowe or Collins are defeated in their party's primaries, the seat will be thrown to a Democrat, it's that simple. NRTPAC is cutting off its nose to spite its face.

    February 11, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. Veteran in Kansas

    Finally a Repulbilcan that puts nation above party and self interest.

    Three cheers for the bipartisan efforts of Allen Specter.

    Threats like the one by the National Republican Trust PAC demonstrate at real reason that PACs should be reined in and limited as to what they can do, who does Specter represent after all, special interest groups such as NRTPAC or the citizens ofthe State of Pennsylvania.

    February 11, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  5. Roony

    As a Pittsburgher I think this is very interesting. He is trying to play it like this is a maverick move but he would be trounced in his upcoming re-election bid if he voted against the stimulus.

    February 11, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  6. Lisa in Florida

    Good for you Senator!! Looks like you should tell McCain and the other republicans what "Country First" really means!

    February 11, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. jill

    Se. Specter, I applaude you, for at least trying to help, I know it was not easy for you to break with the republican party, but you put everything else aside, that's what matters. Thank You!!!!!!!!!

    February 11, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. cmc

    I thought that ALL senators were elected to serve "the" people not the party. Seems to me that the Republicans have the idea "it's my way or the highway", see that where it got us in the last 8 yrs. I just wish they (republicans) would get over themselves and do the work "for" the people instead of obstructing. For 8 yrs we have to put up with egos, time to stop and do their jobs.

    February 11, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  9. tim

    Isn't a stimulus bill a spending bill? Isn't what Bush-ie did a year or so ago when he gave all of us a check a spending bill?

    Vote your local and state Republican out of office.... do us all a favor, please.

    February 11, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. Bridgette-PA

    To "Deborah" who wrote- "Suddenly funding every wish list of the Liberal Left is not going to solve a thing!"

    Stop lieing! You are NO LIFELONG DEMOCRAT. Any true Democrat can tell from your comment. Be proud to be the Republican you are! Say it loud and say it proud....DON'T HIDE BEHIND THE US! WE ARE THE TRUE LIFELONG DEMOCRATS!

    February 11, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. Tough Lady, NC

    Thank you Republican Senators for doing what is best for the country.
    CNN please go to South Carolina and some of the other states that have Republican Senators such as Senator Graham who are against everything that will help their states. In S. C., there are children attending school in a building built in the 1800's. Some areas have extreme poverty, high unemployment and illiteracy.

    February 11, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. buzzgirl

    PA Democrat who voted for you many times...NOT ANYMORE!

    February 11, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  13. Bob in Pa

    Bye Bye Arlen. Next election cycle you are history! I will hate to see Chris Mathews in your place but somethings got to give.

    February 11, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. Taniel

    Yesterday, MN's election court took the big step of outlining 19 different categories of rejected absentee ballots (!) and asking campaigns to file briefs about whether each category should count. This might seem minor, but it will make sorting through the 4800 absentee ballots go MUCH MUCH quicker than previously anticipated.

    Campaign Diaries describes the court's ruling and lists the 19 categories in plain English. Who knew the difference between a ballot delivered in person by the voter and a ballot delivered in person by a "proper agent" could be relevant to determining a U.S. Senator?

    February 11, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  15. RSB

    Education, like other things got cut because this is a STIMULUS package, intended to STIMULATE our economy. Its not a spending package.

    The reps opposed it becuase the dems used it as a vehicle to promote their interests rather than the economy. Shame on those who says the Reps are putting politics first without seeing the exact behavior form those in power.

    February 11, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. Ian Minneapolis, MN

    It's good that he's actually doing what he believes is right.

    February 11, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  17. In Houston, TX

    If the success of your party depends upon the failure of the president and subsequently the nation, then you mght be a republican

    If your party seeks more power instead of helping the people who elected you to office, then you might be a republican

    If your party punishes its members for reaching across the isle in an attempt to help the American people, then you might be a republican.

    If you like playing politics instead of helping the people, you might be a republican.

    If your party can't see the benefits of a tax-and-spend policy and can't stop thinking about tax cuts...YOU MIGHT BE A REPUBLICAN.

    Everybody can play along....join me

    February 11, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  18. Ash reddy

    Thank you Spector. He is an example of rational thinking on the part of a politician – commitment to our country should be more than a narrow siding with the party line.

    I wish GOP people at least now demonstrate ther loyalty to their country rather than those top corporates who want to loot the country.

    I will campaign for Spector the next time, or better still move to PA.

    February 11, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  19. Denver Dem

    All I can say is cheers to Senators Arlen, Olympia, and Susan. It is good to see that some of the repugs know what is essential to the american people and not just greedy corporate interests. In regards to trustPAC., I say we as Dems when it comes time for these three senators to run again we make sure they run against the dems and not some other fanuke. Make sure they get a nod from their states repub part, they all deserve it.

    February 11, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  20. Mari

    @ AL NY NY........ well said!! Thank you for your comment!

    I have always liked Specter, he is an AUTHENTIC man in the business of politics in which many are liars, or kissing-up-to-the-hateful-talking-heads of AM Radio and "FAUX NEWS". I, for one admire a man who is willing to stand up for his principles, who is courageous enough to DO what IS right!


    February 11, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. John

    Wrong....the reasons that he voted FOR the bailout was completely political. He knows there are a lot of democrats in PA who voted for him. If he voted against the package, he would lose those votes. Let's not forget that PA went democrat in the presidential election. Don't insult our intelligence Mr. Specter.

    February 11, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. mary dale

    I knew Collins and Snowe were reasonable enough to put the country first, above politics. I am glad Specter has agreed to join them. I still say – if a state's reps vote against this, dont give that state any of the stimulus package – maybe just the tax cuts. They will find out when they lose their jobs that tax cuts are meaningless. Congrats to Specter and the ladies for putting AMerica first.

    February 11, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  23. TCM

    You're a traitor to the American people, let alone the Republican party. The current bill is saturated with pork projects, none that stimulate the economy, but instead refill the coffers of the entitlement and welfare funds...what happens when, in 6-10 months, Obama wants more money? Huh? Genius?

    a pissed off American....one of millions that do not want this pork platter served up to offer payback to the cronies that seated Obama.......join the liberal democratic party, Spector, you Wuss!

    February 11, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. jummai

    it takes a reasonable and a brave man to take a brave position. God bless you!

    February 11, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  25. Tony

    The Dems have NO room to talk about pushing out a Senator

    Remember JOE LEIBERMAN??????? He kick your butt.

    The Dems are trying to get everything THEY have wanted for the past few years. Many forget, that it was the Dems in Congress in charge for most of the problems we have had.

    February 11, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
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