Monday, February 09, 2009

Republican Defectors Facing Backlash For Stimulus Support

The three Republican senators supporting President Barack Obama’s $827 billion stimulus bill are drawing the wrath of many conservatives who say the massive spending in the plan could tip the country into depression. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Pennsylvania's Sen. Arlen Specter were lambasted on conservative Web sites throughout the weekend, and were the subjects of angry calls by many of their constituents, according to reports. “Arlen Specter is DONE,” wrote a blogger named steelfish on the FreeRepublic Web site. “He won his last primary by less than 1 percent against a real conservative of Pat Toomey. And only because the President Bush came to PA and campaigned for him.He is DONE.” “They are frauds. RINOS (Republicans in Name Only),’’ wrote a blogger named Croupier101 on the Fox News blog site. On TV news shows Sunday, their Republican colleagues distanced themselves and downplayed their significance as Republicans in helping the president pass his package. "This agreement is not bipartisan," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told CBS' "Face the Nation." "I've been in bipartisan agreements, many. This is three Republican senators. Every Republican congressman voted against it in the House, plus Democrats. And all but three Republicans stayed together on this. That's not bipartisanship. That's just picking off a couple of senators," McCain said. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the trio’s support must have been disappointing to Obama, who has staked much on his ostensible ability to transcend the partisan divide. "Having three Republicans, potentially, support it in the Senate out of 535 members of Congress is hardly a bipartisan effort. I think it's a disappointment -- surely must be for President Obama," Cornyn told "FOX News Sunday." He added he fully expects the bill to pass "with almost exclusively Democratic support."
Collins, Specter, Snowe: Phone calls and emails to their offices were running heavily against the three Republicans’ support for the stimulus package.
The three were the target of a furious national campaign by liberal groups, who besieged their offices with phone calls and emails urging them to support the stimulus plan. Without Democrats controlling a supermajority of 60 votes in the Senate, the trio's support was essential in advancing the contentious plan to a final vote next week. Their help more than likely will result in pushing the stimulus over the finish line. In a video posted on YouTube, Republican Rep. Ron Paul said the three “caved in and went with the Democrats.” The former presidential candidate, who has a sizeable following on the Internet, especially among college students, praised his fellow House Republicans for unanimously opposing the stimulus. But he lamented that after eight years of the massive spending done under the Bush administration, Republican opposition was too little, too late. "It is like they're born-again budget conservatives," Paul said. "Where were we in the past eight years, when we could have done something? And you see our last eight years that has set this situation up. So we can't blame the Democrats for the conditions we have. "We have to blame both parties and presidents of the last several decades to have generated this huge government." The stimulus package, which is expected to come in at about $827 billion when the Senate votes, includes tax cuts and credits and spending on infrastructure, education and other projects that supporters say will create and save jobs. Collins said she broke ranks with her party because of the progress congressional negotiators had made on the bill. "Well, I know that some of my Republican colleagues are unhappy with the position that I've taken," Collins told reporters Saturday. "I hope they will look at the fact that we were able to cut $110 billion of unnecessary spending from this bill. I think that's a good accomplishment. I also think that it's important that we do pass a stimulus bill to help turn the economy around." But Snowe and Specter have kept a low profile since the deal was struck. Despite their huge role, none made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. Specter said Friday night that the agreement wasn't perfect but it was necessary. That assertion was greeted with wild derision on the Internet and with veiled scorn by other Republican leaders. Julie Ann O'Brien, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said she already has received plenty of e-mails from people across the country, the majority scolding the two Senators for their support of the bill. "We have heard from both sides," she told "We've heard from those who are pleased that Sen. Collins, in particular, has been willing to play and negotiate. And there are others who feel strongly that they are not acting like Republicans are supposed to act."O'Brien doesn't anticipate any local political fallout for Snowe or Collins, noting that both won't face re-election for several years and that voters are familiar with them. "People know what they're getting when they vote for them," she said. "They lean conservative on most issues -- that's why they're Republicans. But they really do, I feel, do what is right -- not politically right but morally right." But Specter is up for re-election in 2010. On Sunday, a liberal, union-supported issue advocacy group initially founded in 2005 to rally against President Bush’s Social Security reform plan was praising the three in ads in Maine and Pennsylvania. "Senators Snowe and Collins have worked with President Obama and other senators to reach agreement on a plan that has support from a broad range of groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce and organized labor," says the version of the ad in Maine. "Call Senators Snowe and Collins today at 202-224-3121. Thank them for their leadership and tell them to keep fighting for a plan to get our economy moving again." But Collins, at least, has left herself some wiggle room on the final bill that emerges after House-Senate negotiations. "Well, I know that some of my Republican colleagues are unhappy with the position that I've taken," Collins told FOX News. "I hope they will look at the fact that we were able to cut $110 billion of unnecessary spending from this bill. I think that's a good accomplishment.” Yet she conceded that if a bill comes back from the conference committee with the House "once again bloated with wasteful spending and it's too expensive, then I'll vote against it."