Specter Says Senate Stimulus Must Emerge from Conference Committee 'Virtually Intact' to Win His Support

By Josiah Ryan | February 9, 2009 | 7:18 PM EST

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)

(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said that the Senate version of  the $828-billion-plus stimulus bill must emerge from a House-Senate conference committee "virtually intact" to win his support for final passage.

On a 61-36 vote Monday, the bill cleared the "filibuster" hurdle in the Senate. Only three Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania -- joined all the Democrats in voting to advance the bill to another vote on Tuesday.

If it passes the Senate on Tuesday, the bill will go to a conference committe for reconciliation with the House version.  Then it's back to both the House and the Senate for a final vote.
“My support for the Conference Report on the stimulus package will require that the Senate compromise bill come back virtually intact including, but not limited to, overall spending, the current ratio of tax cuts to spending, and the $110 billion in cuts,” Specter told CNSNews.com in a statement.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed displeasure with some cuts in the package made by Senate Democrats to attract liberal Republicans, whose votes are needed to get the bill through the Senate.
Like Specter, Snowe and Collins have also said they may vote against the bill if it is significantly changed in conference with the House.
“I have made it very clear that if the bill comes back with a lot of the unnecessary expenditures crammed back on, with deep cuts in the tax relief provided to the American people, then the Democrats will lose my vote,” said Sen. Collins on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday.
“I’ve made that clear to the president and to his chief of staff as well,” said Collins. “We have put together a carefully balanced package. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t my first choice…but it is far better than the bill that the House sent over and if that balance is upset in conference, I will vote no.”
“Certainly,” said Sen. Snowe’s spokesman John Gentzel when asked if Snowe would oppose the bill if it is significantly altered in the negotiation process with the House.
“She wants to make sure it’s timely and targeted and going towards job creation,” said Gentzel. “We are looking at the totality of the proposal and are in direct communication with the leadership. She is watching to make sure it’s stimulus and not omnibus.”
If the Senate, as expected, approves the overall legislation in a vote today, key members of the House and Senate will meet in a special “conference committee” to hash out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
The stimulus will then go back to the House and Senate for final passage, at which time Senate Democrats may once again require Republican votes to end debate and bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
“We will certainly have to reexamine the bill when it comes back from conference,” a source in Specter’s office told CNSNews.com.
“It’s important that we get this bill to the president’s desk as soon as possible, but if the bill that comes back to the Senate from the conference committee is once again bloated with wasteful spending and if it’s too expensive, then I will vote against it,” Collins said on Fox News Live on Saturday.
“I believe that the support that Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and myself are giving to the bill helps put pressure on the conferences to bring the cost down and to focus on tax relief that will really help create jobs and turn our economy around,” she said.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the former Republican presidential candidate, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the Senate version of the bill is not a bipartisan measure.
"I've been in bipartisan agreements, many. This is three Republican senators,” said McCain.  “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.”