Specter Sends Pennsylvanians Misgiving-Riddled Letter on Stimulus

Here’s a telling counter-point to the four House Republicans who are touting the benefits of the newly signed stimulus law … despite their unanimous opposition to it.

Sen. Arlen Specter (PA), one of three GOPers in the upper chamber who supported the stimulus after insisting on significant cuts to the bill, just emailed Pennsylvanian constituents a letter putting his vote in context — and fairly agonized context at that.

After suggesting last week that his fellow Republicans were too lily-livered to join him in backing President Obama’s plan, Specter’s new note practically apologizes for his stance on the stimulus, calling it “the best … we could [do] under the circumstances.”

But my favorite part has to be the finale, where Specter depicts himself as a lone defender of the common good over political gain: “[M]y duty was to look out for the public interest and not my own personal political interest.” Keep in mind that even as he tagged other Republicans as too politically motivated to support the stimulus, Specter was openly fretting about a likely primary challenge from the right.

His full letter to Pennsylvanians is after the jump, with the original bolded text intact.

Dear Friends,

As you know, today the President signed into law the “Americans [sic] Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.”

The vote on the stimulus package was a very tough vote because of the very large deficit we have and the very large national debt faced by future generations. But the economy is in a desperate situation. Just in the month of January we lost 600,000 jobs, added to the loss of 2.8 million last year. There are millions of people who are having their homes foreclosed. The economists tell us that if we do not act that the current severe recession could well develop into a full-fledged depression like 1929.

The agreement we reached was the best one we could under the circumstances.We were able to cut out $100 billion from the package and include 35% in tax relief in the overall bill. My preference would have been John McCain’s proposal, which I voted for, to have the stimulus package of $421 billion in tax cuts alone. I voted for the Reagan tax cuts back in 1981 and that would be the best course, but in a legislative body you don’t have exactly your own choice.

I was impressed with the position of the United States Chamber of Commerce which was for the bill very solidly. The Chamber of Commerce, obviously, is a very conservative, Republican organization which has its hands on the economy and what’s happening to many, many businesses and they were for it. All factors considered, I thought that action had to be taken.

I voted for it with reservations, as I have commented. One was I didn’t like the speed of the operation. When President Obama came to talk to the Republican Caucus and my turn came for a question I said, ‘Why the haste? Why do you have to move ahead on February 13?’ I reminded him of the bailout package of $700 billion where mistakes were made because the legislature didn’t go through what we call ‘regular order.’ The President responded that there was an emergency and that we had to act. Another factor which concerned me was that there is a good bit in this bill which should be in the regular appropriations process – important healthcare and education projects, but they ought to be in the regular budget where we establish overall spending and then make a determination of priorities.

My vote was cast recognizing the very substantial political peril that I face. 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.