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Specter Goes Democrat

April 28, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Saying that the Republican party has moved too far to the right, Sen. Arlen Specter [R, PA] is switching parties immediately and will run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat. Huge news:

Specter’s decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next senator from Minnesota. (Former senator Norm Coleman is appealing Franken’s victory in the state Supreme Court.) […]

President Obama was informed of Specter’s decision at around 10:25 a.m., according to White House officials, and reached out to the senator minutes later to tell him “you have my full support,” and we are “thrilled to have you.”

Specter as a Democrat would also fundamentally alter the 2010 calculus in Pennsylvania as he was expected to face a difficult primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey. The only announced Democrat in the race is former National Constitution Center head Joe Torsella although several other candidates are looking at the race.

The precariousness of Specter’s political position – a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state – was on display earlier this year when he was one of three GOP senators to back President Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan. That vote was strongly condemned by conservative Republicans and Toomey used that vote as the launching pad for his candidacy.

Some of the key votes that Specter has voted with the Democrats on so far this year include D.C. voting rights, the stimulus bill, S-CHIP and the the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Since he will probably be facing a less centrist Democratic challenger in the primary, Specter will likely vote even more often with the Democrats this session, including on issues like health care reform and climate change.

View Specter’s full voting history, including information on which votes were with his party and which were against his party, and use our vote comparison tool to see how he compares to other senators from both parties.

Specter’s decision helps Senate Democrats get to a filibuster-proof 60 seats, but he has already stated that he will not vote with Democrats to overcome a Republican-led filibuster on the hotly contested Employee Free Choice Act.

UPDATE: Some info on the deal worked out between Specter and the Democrats:

Capitol Hill sources tell NBC News there had been active discussion between senior Democratic leadership and Arlen Specter for about three weeks.

NO DEM OPPONENT PROMISED: Specter was promised that the Democratic Party would fully support his candidacy as a Democrat and would not back any other Democrat seeking the seat. “In money and message,” the party will be behind Specter. Any other Democrat who intends to run will “not have the blessing of the party.”

NO CHAIRMANSHIP ON THE TABLE: Sources say Specter will not be given a chairmanship during this Congress, the 111th. For now, “chairmanships were not on the table” as a part of the party switch negotiations.
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