GREAT MOMENTS IN POLITICAL FORESIGHT…. Back in February, a trio of Senate Republican “centrists” were willing to allow the chamber to vote on an economic recovery package, but not before they took out expenditures they perceived as unnecessary.

Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine spoke to reporters on Feb. 5, and explained her efforts in the stimulus negotiations.

“[T]hese decisions are difficult. For example, I think everybody in the room is concerned about a pandemic flu. Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill? No, we should not. So, after discussion, we agreed that we would cut the funding for that, knowing that we can deal with that issue later.”

Six days earlier, Collins was incredulous on the subject: “There is funding to help improve our preparedness for a pandemic flu…. What does that have to do with an economic stimulus package?”


What’s more, The Political Carnival notes that Collins’ website, at least as of this morning, promotes a Wall Street Journal article that touts Collins’ efforts to remove pandemic-flu preparedness from the recovery legislation.

As for the substance of Collins’ concerns, and the rationale for removing the funding in February, John Nichols has a report in the The Nation noting precisely how the resources relate to an economic recovery.

When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year’s emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse — with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey’s attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.

And his partisan attacks on his efforts seem not just creepy, but dangerous.

On Feb. 5, the same as Collins unfortunate remarks, Karl Rove had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal complaining about stimulus package, in part because it included money for “pandemic flu preparations.”

Sometimes, these folks just don’t think ahead.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.