(CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Monday that the party could back challengers to the senators who crossed party lines to back President Obama's stimulus package.
“Oh, yeah, I’m always open to everything, baby, absolutely,” he told Fox Monday night, when asked by Fox's Neil Cavuto about his willingness to support primary candidates looking to take "retribution" on the three Republican senators who voted in favor of the plan, including Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
“My retribution is the retribution of the voters in their states. They’re going to have to go through a primary in which they’re going to have to explain to those Republican voters in that primary their vote,” he said. “That is something I’ll talk to the state parties about, and we’ll follow their lead.”
“...It’s just like anything. When the state party says, ‘We’re going to endorse a candidate and support that candidate,’ the RNC is behind them. When the state party says, ‘We have a problem with that candidate,’ so does the RNC,” he added.
In a letter to constituents earlier this month, Specter - who withstood a close challenge from Club for Growth-backed candidate Pat Toomey five years ago - acknowledged the anger over his vote.
"My vote was cast recognizing the very substantial political peril that I face," he wrote. "I know that there are many on the Republican political spectrum who do not like the vote. I remember, obviously, the tough primary fight I had in the year 2004. But I felt in the final analysis, given the very severe consequences which might befall the country, that my duty was to look out for the public interest and not my own personal political interest."
The Pennsylvania senator is the only one of the three up for re-election next year.