Friday, February 13, 2009

Economic Stimulus Bill Passes Along Party Lines

Following the House of Representative's lead, the U.S. Senate has passed the $789 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, by a vote of 60 - 38. The vote in the House was 246-183.

Not a single Republican voted for ARRP in the House, and only three Republicans voted for it in the Senate- Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

Obama is expected to sign the bill into law on Monday.

Thanks everyone for all the passion and commitment you brought to this fight. You took ownership for your own future and made it happen. 

Yes. You. Did.

But folks (and you knew there had to be a "but", didn't you?), this will be the first of many challenges to come. What passed today was just a down payment on our future. 
There's so much work left - so much damage to undo from the last 8 years; on healthcare, the environment, energy independence, civil rights. The list is endless. 

So savor today's victory. And get ready to go at it again when the time comes.

The Republicans in Congress have meet Obama's open hand of bipartisanship with a clenched fist. There are many reasons for this - some are honest disagreements, some are ideological. But mostly it's about Republicans putting their own political interests over the best interests of the American people:

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who broke with his party to support President Obama's stimulus package last week, said before the final vote Friday that more of his colleagues would have joined were they not afraid of the political consequences.

"When I came back to the cloak room after coming to the agreement a week ago today," said Specter, "one of my colleagues said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' My Republican colleague said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' I said, 'Are you going to vote with me?' And he said, 'No, I might have a primary.' And I said, 'Well, you know very well I'm going to have a primary.'"

Specter, along with centrist Maine Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, joined with Democrats last week to move the stimulus bill forward. Specter said he doubted there would be any more Republican votes than those three Friday night.

"I think there are a lot of people in the Republican caucus who are glad to see this action taken without their fingerprints, without their participation," he said.

Specter was asked, How many of your colleagues?

"I think a sizable number," he said. "I think a good part of the caucus agrees with the person I quoted, but I wouldn't want to begin to speculate on numbers."

Being the 60th and deciding vote isn't easy for a centrist who will likely face a more conservative primary challenger and then a more liberal general election opponent.

"I'd feel less uncomfortable about being the sixty-first and even better about being the sixty-seventh, but I'll take 'em one at a time," he said.

Specter added that his hope was that next time there would be more Republicans joining within him. But is that realistic?

"I didn't say it was my expectation, it was my hope," said Specter, before walking on to the Senate floor.

So folks, here's my final ask for now. Take a moment and write Specter a thank you note. 

I know, I'm not thrilled about the compromises we were forced to make either, but without Specter's leadership, his willingness to put country before politics - even though he had honest disagreements with Obama on the stimulus bill - our future would have died at the feet of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. 

I single out Specter because Snowe and Collins hold relatively safe seats in Maine. But Specter was almost ousted in a tough primary challenge in 2004.  

So folks, take a moment to thank Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Thank him for putting country before politics:

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