RNC to consider punishing Senate centrists

RNC TO CONSIDER PUNISHING SENATE CENTRISTS…. Three Senate Republicans — Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Arlen Specter (Pa.) — were the only members of the minority party to cross party lines and vote in favor of the stimulus package. Yesterday, RNC Chairman Michael Steele suggested they’ll be rewarded with primary challengers, and possibly a withdrawal of support from the national party.

Greg Sargent flagged this clip from Fox news yesterday, during which Neil Cavuto asked, “Will you, as RNC head, recommend no RNC funds being provided to help them?” Steele said he’d “talk to” state party officials in Maine and Pennsylvania about the possibility. When asked if he was at least open to withholding party support to three incumbent Republican senators, Steele added, “Oh, yes, I’m always open to everything, baby, absolutely.”

Steele was probably hoping to send a message to GOP lawmakers who may be thinking about working with the White House on controversial policies, but it’s an odd kind of threat. For one thing, Steele’s comments probably won’t mean much to Sens. Snowe and Collins. Snowe won 74% of the vote in her last campaign, and isn’t up for re-election until 2012. Collins was just elected to a third term with 62% of the vote, and isn’t up again until 2014. Are they going to be afraid of Michael Steele? I doubt it.

For that matter, the RNC chairman’s threat is probably hollow. The Republican Party has to worry about every single seat, especially vulnerable incumbents like Specter. Steele isn’t going to stand behind him next year because he endorsed a recovery plan during an economic crisis? It seems unlikely. (Note to Steele: you shouldn’t promise the base one thing on Fox News, and then deliver another thing when votes are on the line.)

Post Script: In the same interview with Cavuto, Steele added that the way to improve the economy was to signal that “the state and the federal government will spend no more money.”

Steele added, “[T]e inflationary effect, the deflationary effect, all of those things are going to come to head at some point.” I have no idea what this means. I’m fairly certain Steele doesn’t either.

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