PA GOP Sen. Specter joining Dems; switch shifts Senate
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter said Tuesday he will switch to the Democratic Party, a move that could boost his chances for re-election next year. The party swap pushes Democrats closer to a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority.
USA Today Reports:
"This is a painful decision; I know that I am disappointing many of my friends and colleagues – frankly I have been disappointed by many of the responses, so disappointment runs in both directions," Specter said at an afternoon news conference.
"Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right," Specter said in a statement released earlier. "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."
Specter, 79 and in his fifth term, is one of a handful of Republican moderates remaining in Congress. With Specter, Democrats would have 59 Senate seats. Al Franken, leading in a marathon recount in Minnesota against Republican Norm Coleman, could become the party's 60th vote. That is the number needed to overcome a filibuster.
The Wahington Post Reports:
The move was the latest blow to an already staggering GOP, and Republicans immediately sought to cast Specter's move as nothing more than the politics of self-preservation. "Let's be honest -- Senator Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind," said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. "He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record."
Other moderate Republicans acknowledged they, too, have been approached about changing parties. Sen. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins , the Maine Republicans who along with Specter provided the three pivotal votes for Obama's $787 billion stimulus legislation, both said today they have been approached. Neither would comment about how recent the overtures were, although Collins said she's been asked roughly four times over her 12 years in the Senate to consider becoming a Democrat.
"It's something I would never do," she said.
Snowe called Specter's decision "devastating news" for Republicans, particularly Northeastern Republicans who have almost vanished in the Senate over the last decade. "Many Republicans feel alienated and disaffected from the party," Snowe said. "It just helps nourish a culture of exclusion and alienation."
The USA Today article continues:
Democrats, however, welcomed Specter with open arms.