Senate reaches deal on stimulus?

Democrats have reportedly secured the Republican votes they need to pass the bill, but there's still pressure being brought to bear against the defectors.

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 6, 2009 7:10PM (EST)

It seems Senate Democrats may have secured the votes they need to pass the stimulus. The National Review's Byron York reports that "an influential Republican senator" told him three GOP senators have cut a deal to vote in favor of the bill.

Proponents of the package need those three senators, at a minimum, in order to get to the 60-vote threshold necessary to end debate and bring the bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote. There are currently 58 Democrats in the Senate, but Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy hasn't been voting recently due to his illness.

As for the identity of the Republicans who might be ready to cross the aisle, speculation is falling on some familiar names -- Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter.

In a post at the Corner, York's colleague Mark Hemingway illustrates the delicate political considerations at play here, especially in reference to Specter. Hemingway reports that conservatives are already thinking about punishing Specter if he does vote for the bill, and encouraging Pat Toomey to run against him in the Republican primary in 2010. The two men also faced off in 2004, and Specter barely survived -- he won with a margin of about 17,000 votes, or less than 2 percentage points. Even if he beats Toomey again, a difficult primary challenge would badly weaken the incumbent and make him an easier target for Democrats, who are already eyeing the seat.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Arlen Specter D-pa. U.s. Economy