Pennsylvania's U.S. senators have tried to reason with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson over money he's withholding from the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

But Jackson isn't cooperating. So now it's time for Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey to make Jackson an offer he can't defuse.

The senators should push legislation that would force HUD to restore $40 million to PHA. The deadline for HUD to act on the funding is Monday.

Jackson's latest response to the senators was mush. He rejected their request for a one-year extension of PHA's funds, saying it would set a bad precedent. Well, if anyone should know about setting bad precedent, it's Secretary Jackson.

For example, his agency awarded a $127 million contract for redevelopment work in New Orleans to a group that included a firm called Columbia Residential, which owes Jackson more than $250,000 for "past services." That contract is part of a criminal investigation into the HUD secretary. This matter could turn out to be very, very bad precedent.

Then there's Jackson's decision to give a friend with no housing experience a contract to run the housing authority in the Virgin Islands. Another bad precedent.

Also, there's Jackson's reported intervention on behalf of another friend, music industry mogul Kenny Gamble, to try to get PHA to turn over land for redevelopment to Gamble. After PHA Director Carl Greene Jr. refused, HUD turned up the heat on Greene. HUD made the dubious claim that PHA wasn't providing enough handicapped-accessible housing, and pulled the $40 million in funding.

Further bad precedent is having your HUD assistants write e-mail in which they relish the chance to punish PHA by revoking its funding. Not only is it bad policy, but e-mail also has a habit of turning up as evidence in court, as these missives did.

Jackson's tenure looks increasingly untenable. Two senators have called for his resignation, given his troublesome record and his refusal to cooperate with Congress.

People who need public housing in Philadelphia shouldn't pay for Jackson's arrogant behavior. If HUD won't reason, Pennsylvania's senators should get PHA its money through binding legislation.