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. Molly

    These are the smart Republicans most of America loves. Not the crazy radicals that have over taken the party!

    February 11, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  2. PATC

    Ohio Man – This is easy. Suspend Payroll taxes for at least 6 months maybe a year. It helps the woprker and mainly the lower paid because the Payroll tax is most brutal on them. It helps the employers because they don't have to pay their 7.65% match. They can a. Save it and stay afloat and not have to fire people b. Hire more indiviuals at least temporarily as they have extra cash c. modernize theire workplace to stay up with 21st century technology. Wow a program that helps the lower payed and creates job growth. Hmm sounds like a cheap but affordable stimulus package to me.

    February 11, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. pete

    This is not about spending. As the last 8 years have shown Republicans are more than willing to spend as much or more than Democrats. The difference is what they spend it on.

    Republicans only want to spend on programs that benefit the affluent and big business. They hand out defense contracts to Boeing, Ratheon and Oshkosh truck like they were after dinner mints and champion tax cuts for the rich. They didn't have a problem borrowing a trillion or so for a war to find Dick Cheney's fictional WMDs in Iraq and few $100 billion more for social and infrastructure programs in Iraq.

    Democrats want to spend to fix the damage done by banks that were turned loose by the previous administration and their lax SEC and a few social and infrastructure programs here in the US.

    I will take the latter, thank you. Hats off to Mr Specter.

    The Republican's "Let them eat cake", obstructionist attitude is doomed. The economy will undoubtedly pick up by 2010 and the stimulus either rightly or wrongly will get the credit. They will be stuck trying to explain why they voted against it.

    February 11, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  4. Al, NY NY

    J.P. February 11th, 2009 11:44 am ET
    Spector, pack your bags now.

    Wow. An upset lemming who cowtows to the extremists. What a revelation. I guess if you don't follow the almighty leader and suckle at his b o s o m (ugh) you are a traitor and should be voted out. As many have said here JP, go ahead and vote them out. They're the only chance you have of regaining any say in government but if you're so dead set against them, welcome to the minority status for YEARS

    February 11, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  5. Let's vote all the Republicans out of office!!!

    Except: Specter, Snowe and Collins

    February 11, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. unity



    February 11, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. John, Rochester MN

    If the GOP gets more candidates that think and act this way, I might vote for them some day. Not in the US Senate to further his own political interests? Wow, what a novel concept. Too bad more Senators don't think that way. *cough* Coleman *cough*

    February 11, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Frank C


    February 11, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. Sherry for Obama

    A smart man

    He does'nt just vote along party lines......A republican that actually cares for the good of the country

    February 11, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    Spector will end up like McCain. Bashed by the left and the right.
    McCain bucked his own party too but come election time, the democrats and their supporters called him Bush III. These days people have short memories and will not let good deeds stay too long in the way of partisanship.

    February 11, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. MHC

    I love how the posts from Democrats are full of hate and mostly based on emotion and a poor understanding of capitalism and free markets. ( Check out Dana and Al both from NY, what a surprise.) The stimulus plan won't work. End of Story. It's not because it not well intentioned, but it's just bad economics. Econ 101 should be required course work for every high school student.

    BTW, those of you who are nieve enough to think strong arm politics is not part of the political system, I think someone recently stated that "We Won in November" to get his point across.

    February 11, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  12. Larry Ventimiglio

    I'm encouraged that at least three Senators are standing up in the face of adversity by their own party to try to do the right thing.

    I'm disappointed, however, that most other GOP leaders prefer to offer harsh criticism without offering positive and constructive solutions.

    The GOP still doesn't get it!!!

    February 11, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. david


    February 11, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  14. Hammer

    He came to Washington to fill his Swiss bank account with taxpayer money. He sold his vote to the Dems this time, who knows who will be high bidder next time.

    February 11, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. Camilla

    Really, a true decent politicians who understands that he was voted into office to make the tough decisions – not to ensure his own re-election. Bravo. My hat is tipped for Senator Spector – Thank you for your service not only to your state but to our nation.

    February 11, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  16. Connor

    The Republicans that stepped up to the table to help address this financial crisis should get everyone's support, as well as votes. I am a devout Obama supporter, but these three Senators are examples of what the job is all about. The rest of the GOP should be ashamed.

    February 11, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  17. Right to Free Thought

    Trust PAC and its ilk (along with Limbaugh) are the reason the Republican Party has collapsed into the ground.

    I personally don't agree with the stimulus package, but I think it would be healthy if there was some free and moderate thought in the Republican Party, instead of every member becoming an ultra-right scorched-earth nut-case.

    What Trust PAC is too stupid to realize is that Specter, Snowe, and Collins are actually winning back the American people's trust of the Republican Party, and Trust PAC is doing its best to turn the party into what McConnell warned would be an irrelevant, "regional party."

    February 11, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  18. Steven Stewart

    I am a Pennsylvania Democrat and Arlen Specter is one of my two Senators.

    I WILL vote for him in 2010. I'm not partisan or crazy enough to vote out a good man who has the courage and character to buck his party on this important measure.

    A couple of years ago we voted a hard-headed, hard-core neocon Rick Santorum out of office and replaced him with an excellent senator Bob Casey. We now have two excellent senators and I have no interest in losing Arlen Specter.

    We have your back Arlen. Keep bringing the light and let the heat fall on the nay-sayers.

    February 11, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. I can see Canada from my house!

    Arlen Spector has usually been a voice of reason and thoughtfulness in a time when mindless loyalty is prized more than the public good. Is this bill perfect? Absolutely not, but before Republicans rush to judgement, think about all the things you have cheerfully supported because they benefitted your district or state. Bridges to Nowhere, endless defense contracts that were of dubious value, and when we are faced with a stark crisis, you complain about spending after you cheerfully rubberstamped 8 budgets that were so unbalanced its ridiculous? You were applauding McCain's independence: now you want to browbeat 3 legislators who made the decision that supporting a less-than-perfect bill is preferable than doing nothing. Where has the voice of reason and decency gone in your party? I will tell you: it has been displaced by a mindless, almost Communist-like rigidity to ideas that are not applicable to the situation. You condemn independence and applaud people who talk about areas being "...more American" than others. Your anger is regrettable, since you are just selfish and child-like. Let the adults go to work.

    February 11, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. VICTOR

    These Senators are doing what they were voted into office for. They are doing their jobs and thinking of the people of their states. We can not keep voting partisan or thinking about our political careers WE have to think about the COUNTRY!!! Partisanship will only sink this country into deeper trouble.

    Partisanship is the main reason Empires come to an end.

    maybe some of you out there should read whats on the bill instead of listening to snipits from news commentators. there is alot of good in it.

    These senators are doing the right thing!

    February 11, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Virginian

    Yes, how come CNN you didn't post an article about Senator Schumer's remarks yesterday? I agree with "southerncousin". I bet if it was a Republican you would have posted an ariticle.

    The media is nothing but a Liberal machine for Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Reid. The both of them need to go. Oh, yes I am a Democrat, but I call it as I see it and Senator Schumer's comment were disgusting in my view.

    February 11, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. Ken

    The crux of PA for republicans is that it really is a centrist state, and they really aren't a centrist party. When people like Santorum showed their true colors, Pennsylvanians had the good sense to get rid of them. If the extreme-right Republicans do manage to defeat Specter in the primaries, they will virtually guarantee a Democrat wins the seat.

    February 11, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  23. John

    Where was all this integrity the last 8 years when Spector, Snowe, and Collins backed-up Bush and got us in this mess to begin with?They are opportunists whose states are turning blue and they know which way the wind is blowing.

    February 11, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. joy

    if the GOP=the Grad Obstructionist Party, want to vote out Specter in 2010, well go ahead, the democrate will be happy to have two senator from Pennsylvania. if they think any right wing nut will win in Pennsylvania in 2010, they have another thing coming.

    February 11, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. I'm just sayin...

    I'm sure Spector is not worried about the GOP threats or threats from
    (legal in NC.) lol !

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