The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, March 08, 2003  

The Specter of Specterism Continues to Haunt Pennsylvania

Where does Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) stand on clean air for Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation? It's a question raised in an important op-ed piece published in the March 5 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Specter Changes His Clean-Air Tune," by Joseph Otis Minott, executive director of Pennsylvania's Clean Air Council.

Minott writes:

If recent events are any indication, the conservative leadership in the U.S. Senate may be trying to silence Pennsylvania's senior senator on environmental issues.

For more than 20 years...Specter has shown that he is willing to vote his conscience on the environment and to act independently from his party when it has tried to pass anti-environmental legislation. Recent actions regarding clean air, however, suggest that the pressure may be rising for him to toe the party line on environmental issues and to neglect both his constituents and his heart. ...

Specter's apparent change of attitude first surfaced last year when he voted against the Clean Power Act. This legislation sought to clean up America's oldest and dirtiest power plants by imposing reasonable curbs on concentrations of pollution in their exhaust plumes. At the time, many assumed that Specter wanted a more moderate legislative approach than the one offered. Sens. Thomas Carper (D., Del.) and Lincoln Chafee (R., R.I.) introduced just such a bipartisan bill last fall, but Specter was not among the list of cosponsors.

More surprisingly, Specter did not publicly resist when the Republican leadership of the Senate removed him from the Environment Committee, an assignment he had held only since 2000. His removal is Pennsylvania's loss. Now he will be unable to balance the strongly anti-environmental disposition of incoming committee chairman James Inhofe (R., Okla.). ...

Yet even in this role, Specter's most recent action should concern us. His vote a few weeks ago, for example, enabled the Republican Senate to defeat an amendment by Sen. John Edwards (D., N.C.) to slow the Bush administration's drastic weakening of the Clean Air Act's New Source Review program....

Specter's vote made all the difference in defeating the Edwards' amendment. In contrast, six of his fellow Republicans supported it. Specter would have been in good company had he decided to put Pennsylvania first and vote his convictions on clean air.

Once again, as his next re-election campaign looms, Sen. Specter has become difficult to pin down on issues of importance to millions of Pennsylvanians and other Americans, including those who believe Sen. Specter is an important moderating force on the Republican Party leadership.

I have no doubt we will see more evidence of the senator's political opportunism in coming months.

Let's call it the specter of Specterism. It's haunting Pennsylvania.

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