Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Defects From GOP

Chris Cilliza, at The Fix, has the story. Arlen Specter just announced that he is switching his party affiliation and will run in 2010 as the Democratic candidate. Specter was facing a stiff challenge from his party’s right, from former conservative representative, Pat Toomey. Toomey was leading Specter among Pennsylvania Republicans by 10 points in early polls. Adding to the precariousness of Specter’s political prospects is the fact that Pennsylvania has become a Democratic leaning state over the last several political cycles. Specter, a long time pro-choice moderate, has been increasingly marginalized as the Republican Party has drifted ever rightward, and this year he was one of three senators who broke with his party’s leadership to vote in favor of President Obama’s $787 billion bailout. Toomey used the right’s dissatisfaction with that vote to launch his challenge to Specter.

Specter issued the following statement
"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary. I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."
President Obama, who was informed of Specter's decision at 10:25, immediately expressed his support for Specter and said "we are thrilled to have you."

The other obvious fallout from Specter’s defecting to the Democrats is that they are fast approaching a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Once Al Franken is seated, they will have the 60 seats necessary to invoke cloture.


TheGreenMiles said...

Disappointing that he continues to say he won't support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Karen Duncan said...


That's true. But just because he votes against it in a straight up or down vote doesn't mean it's dead.

EFCA can pass and become law on a simple majority vote if the Republicans can't muster the 40 votes they need to sustain a fillibuster. It's possible that Specter will vote against the bill but still support cloture.

As a new Democrat, he may not be eager to stand with his old GOP colleagues, who pushed him out of the party, in their attempt to block a majority vote.

Indeed, Blanche Lincoln may vote against EFCA too, but still support cloture.

Remember, none of them have to worry about overriding an Obama veto because he supports EFCA. Harry Reid may give them a pass and let them vote against it, as long as they don't join Republicans in a fillibuster.

In which case, the centrists have the best of both worlds. They can go home and tell their constituents they voted against EFCA but it still passes because the centrists respect the rule of the majority.

aznew said...

He has said he won't change his Cloture vote on EFCA. Well, he gets to keep his Senate seat. Obama has prmoised to support him. so has Rendell and Reid. He even seems to believe he is entitled to a sumcommittee chairmanship.

But, Sen. Specter assures us, he will continue to vote his own mind. Merely joining the party apprently doesn't place any obligation on him.

So, what exactly do Democrats get out of this?

Truth be told, Democrats would straetegically be better off telling Specter, thanks, but no thanks. Let toomey win the GOP primary and we can get a real Dem elected in the general.

Also, Specter had it right earlier. He would have better served his party and his country by remaining a Republican and fighting for the soul of his party.

Karen Duncan said...

I saw his statement about not voting to impose cloture on Politico after I wrote the answer to Miles.

I had hoped...

You raise some very valid points, Alan. I still think he will be a valuable ally on pro-choice issues and on helping to get Obama's judicial nominees appointed. Some of the biggest battles with conservatives in the future are going to be over judicial nominees.

Additionally, Specter may be good on health care reform and the environment.

But your point about losing the chance to elect a real, pro union Democrat in Pennsylvania (and Penn is a blue collar state where that should be possible) is a good one. As is your point that Specter would have served his party better by staying in it and fighting for its soul.

But a point was also made that a great many moderate Republicans in Pennsylvania left the party in 2008 and registered to vote for Obama in the Democratic primary. At the time, I thought it was going to be a temporary move, simply to ensure that Obama was the Democratic nominee. I guess many of them found a genuine new home and stayed. Perhaps, seeing that, Specter concluded the fight was already lost in his state.

Teddy said...

So Specter is hardly an unmixed blessing. But is any of the Senators without thorns? They are all, male and female, a bunch of disparate egos, and dealing with them is beyond herding cats, unless it's herding wildcats. Even Webb

Karen Duncan said...

Teddy, you are absolutely right about that!

For those on both sides of the aisle who believe Specter is simply unprincipled, I don't agree.

I think he went as far right as he was willing to in order to accomodate the increasingly conservative base of his party and then he was unwilling to compromise his centrist principles any more.

I have mixed feelings about him becoming a Democrat because I think he will help pull our party too far back to the center and away from progressivism. But pragmatically, it gives us the super majority we need for some items that wouldn't get passed otherwise, like environmental legislation, health care reform, and even judicial nominations.

As Teddy observed, it's a mixed blessing and you just can't have everything.