Specter On GOP Caucus: ‘The Pressure Was Tremendous On Everybody Not To Participate’

January 14, 2010 12:34 p.m.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) just hosted a conference call with liberal bloggers, and we used the opportunity to further question him about an allegation he made a few weeks ago against his former compatriots in the Republican Party — that the GOP caucus decided early on to entirely obstruct President Obama, rather than work in a bipartisan manner.

“Well, the pressure was tremendous on everybody not to participate, and the pressure was on me not to participate, and you know what I did,” said Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party last April, in the face of a right-wing primary challenge. “We had six Republicans who were negotiating. Besides Collins and Snowe, we also had Mel Martinez, we had Voinovich involved, we had Lisa Murkowski. And one by one, those three dropped off. There was a concerted plan in the Republican caucus to stonewall the stimulus package. And when I voted for it, and it took me to get the necessary votes, all hell broke loose politically, which I’ve commented on extensively.”I asked Specter whether there were explicit discussions in this former party caucus about blocking Obama entirely for political considerations, independent of policy concerns, as seemed to be implied in his remarks a few weeks ago. Specter declined to discuss specific conversations in a closed-door caucus. He referred back to Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) comments that the health care debate could be President Obama’s “Waterloo.” “Well, nobody said it as bluntly as DeMint did. But that was the clear implication of the stonewalling,” said Specter.

“There was no effort made to find any answer to the economic problems of the country, and it was just a no, no, no, and no discussion. I’m not gonna quote what happened inside closed doors. I cite DeMint because it’s in the public domain. But I feel free to tell you that I felt under tremendous pressure. I know that, and my conclusion is there was a decision from the start to stonewall.”

Specter also singled out Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as being particularly intransigent on the health care bill. “For a time, Snowe comes forward on voting in committee and says that she won’t vote for a bill that has the public option,” Specter explained. The public option was ultimately dropped, but Snowe then complained that the process was going too fast. Specter’s response: “That’s hardly a reason. She’s had plenty of time to read the bill now.”

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