Specter: Thank Me For Extracting That Pound of Flesh

February 9, 2009 5:52 a.m.

If you haven’t read Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) op-ed in today’s Washington Post, it’s worth checking out. Just make sure you’ve already digested your breakfast, because the exultant-yet-threatening tone he uses to discuss the Senate centrists’ stimulus plan may trigger some nausea.

Specter admits, candidly, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) critical response to the Senate stimulus means that he and fellow centrist GOPers have pushed the envelope about as far as it can go. But his choice of words is particularly telling (emphasis mine):

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the proposed cuts “do violence to what we are trying to do for the future,” especially on education. Her objections are a warning to conservatives that more cuts would be unlikely to win House approval. They are also an admission of the high price that moderates have been able to extract for their support of stimulus legislation.

Specter admits that the three holdout Republicans — himself, Susan Collins (ME), and Olympia Snowe (ME) — have forced Democrats to sacrifice a substantial portion of their ideal stimulus plan in order to overcome the threat of a filibuster. But what goes unmentioned is the high price that Specter’s own state could pay for his insistence on cutting the economic recovery plan.

Pennsylvania is facing a $2.3 billion budget deficit for next year, even after an assumed (but not guaranteed) $2.4 billion infusion from the federal government. Hundreds of layoffs are almost a foregone conclusion.

But the “high price” of Specter’s stimulus vote doesn’t leave Pennsylvania entirely in the cold. Specter laments in his op-ed that the Senate centrists’ deal cuts

billions of dollars for wellness and prevention programs, including for smoking cessation, prenatal screening and counseling, education, and immunization

but he doesn’t mention that he ensured an extra $6.5 billion in the stimulus compromise for the National Institutes of Health. Let’s put aside the worthiness of NIH initiatives for a moment: 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. Uh-oh, here comes that nausea…

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