Because of the concentrated efforts of millions of Republicans all over America, Susan Collins (Maine) was reelected to the Senate, surviving a challenge once thought to be serious. She won, in large part, because she was able to drown her Democratic adversary in a sea of campaign spending made possible by donations from Republicans throughout the nation. As a result of their efforts, the GOP preserved its 40th vote in the Senate.
And when Saxby Chambliss was forced into a runoff in the Georgia Senate race, Republicans from all over the United States poured out their hearts and their funds to get him reelected, all to save the 41st vote and be able to filibuster Democrats' big spending proposals.
Now the actions of three people who told their voters that they were Republicans have eliminated any hope that the GOP has for influence during the next two years. By making their own deals with the Obama administration and settling for cosmetic improvements in the so-called stimulus package, Sens. Collins, Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) have sold out their party, their state and their supporters.
Don't buy their excuse that they shaved more than one hundred billion dollars in spending from the Senate version. By the time the Senate/House conference reconciles the differences between the versions of the legislation passed by the two houses, most of that spending will be back in the law anyway.
Collins, Snowe and Specter had a chance to send a message to Obama that he had to deal with the Republican Party to avert a filibuster. They could have made it clear that genuine bipartisan cooperation was necessary to pass legislation. These three senators, pledged to cut taxes and oppose massive growth in federal spending, could have demanded a 2-to-1 ratio for tax cuts over spending, rather than the reverse, as Obama is succeeding in getting.
Instead, the three wimped out and caved in for peanuts from Obama. In doing so, they completely stripped their party of any leverage. There was no point in having gotten 41 votes if the three weakest links could sell the party out.
This stimulus package will:
• Hurt economic recovery by elbowing aside private borrowers and consumers as the government goes to the front of the line to borrow adequate funds to cover its deficit.
• Invite massive inflation in the future as consumers and businesspeople sit on most of the money until times improve. Then, when confidence begins to return -- no thanks to the stimulus package -- they will deluge the economy with money, triggering massive inflation.
• Expand government and spend borrowed money on projects that may have some long-term merit but are scarcely our top priority right now.
Republicans in Maine and Pennsylvania need to learn their lesson and assure that these three senators face a primary. Real conservatives, who oppose larger government, must stand up to these three phony Republicans.
They'll get their chance. Specter is up for reelection in 2010. He should have been defeated in 2006 when a real conservative, Pat Toomey, opposed him in a primary and only narrowly lost. Better luck next time.
The very concept of checks and balances evaporated last week on Capitol Hill when these three senators sold out their colleagues and stripped their conference of its power. Now Obama can buy off the GOP senator by senator without having to make genuine compromises with the other party to pass his agenda.
In 1993, Clinton was not able to buy Republicans retail. Only Vermont's Jim Jeffords, who soon became a Democrat, gave way and dealt independently with the president. Now, with their backs to the wall, facing a spending package that will consign America to rampant inflation, massive debt and continued recession, these three senators have gone back on their most fundamental pledge to their constituents -- to act in the public good.