Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., will announce this afternoon that he is switching to the Democratic Party. In a written statement today, Specter wrote, "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. When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing," Specter wrote.
Assuming Al Franken takes the Minnesota Senate seat, Democrats will have that magic number of 60 Senate votes necessary to pass any piece of legislation, and override any filibuster.
More from Spector, "My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change."
Arlen Spector is a dinosaur. A legendary, gravel voiced Senator who votes his mind. If any five senators actually read an individual bill up for consideration, Arlen Spector would be one of them.
You can't guarantee which side of an issue Spector would take, that is what Senate whip counts are for. But he has always been someone the opposition could reach across the aisle towards with the confidence that he would reach back with something other than a hand full of fish hooks.
So while the math says 60, the vote may well be 58 (Leiberman as well). And that is OK with the democratic party. We respect people who vote their conscience, people who can spell public service without a dollar sign.
For the record, Arlen Spector is not leaving the Republican party....they left him. They left him eight years ago; in practice, in attitude, in demeanor and in actions. He just couldn't keep holding his nose anymore.
So for tomorrow the news will be that a major Republican senator has decided his party has become too extreme for him, and we hope others will reassess their party afflictions as well. The truth is, the Spector defection has less to do with Arlen Spector than it does the Republican party itself. The Republican party today is completely adrift in a moral and ideological abyss desperately seeking a leader (Steel ain't it, skin color not withstanding), and a platform they can announce without holding their noses. They will just have to figure it out with one less heavyweight.

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