Specter makes his case

SPECTER MAKES HIS CASE…. I’m glad Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is supporting the stimulus bill. I’m also glad he took the time to write an op-ed for the Washington Post, arguing that the legislation rejected by the vast majority of his party is, in fact, necessary.

But at the risk of sounding picky, Specter’s defense of the Senate version comes up a little short.

As Specter sees it, the compromise measure, “hammered out over two days by Sens. Susan Collins, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and myself,” maintains the integrity of the Obama plan “while cutting less-essential provisions.” Specter suggests he and the “centrists” would have preferred to cut more, but “more cuts would be unlikely to win House approval.”

And what about those who believe the Senate negotiators cut too much?

If a stimulus bill doesn’t pass, there won’t be any money for Title I education programs. The moderates’ bill provides marginally less money for Title I than the House and Senate bills. But while it’s less than supporters want, this proverbial half a loaf beats no loaf by a mile. […]

“In politics,” John Kennedy used to say, “nobody gets everything, nobody gets nothing and everybody gets something.” My colleagues and I have tried to balance the concerns of both left and right with the need to act quickly for the sake of our country. The moderates’ compromise, which faces a cloture vote today, is the only bill with a reasonable chance of passage in the Senate.

At first blush, this might sound reasonable, but there’s a problem. Specter, along with Collins and Snowe, refused to let the bill progress until the extra cuts were made. With this in mind, his defense leaves out a pertinent detail — his own role in blocking the better legislation. Yes, the half-loaf beats no loaf, but we could have the whole loaf were it not for Specter’s obstinacy.

As Jonathan Chait noted, the moderates’ bill is “the only bill with a chance because Specter is holding it hostage. If he announced his support for the House bill, then the House bill would very likely pass. Does this man think we’re idiots?”

What’s more, Elana Schor notes that Specter backed huge cuts in aid to states, despite Pennsylvania’s budget crunch, and complains about the size of the spending bill, despite the fact that he personally fought to get an extra $6.5 billion for the NIH in the package. As Schor explains, “Specter is telling us that $400 million for STD screening is wasteful, but more than ten times that amount for unspecified research grants is abundantly necessary.”

And just to top things off, believe it or not, Arlen Specter was more reasonable than practically any Republican member of Congress during the debate. That tells us something about the state of the GOP.

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