The Fix at the Washington Post has this:
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.
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 Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken’s victory in the state Supreme Court.)
“I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,” said Specter in a statement. “I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”
The reaction from national GOP chairman Michael Steele — who has been under pressure from his party’s more conservative wing — was immediate. He raised the possibility of Democratic opposition for Specter, and the certainty of a Republican challenge:
“Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not.
“Let’s be honest — Senator Specter didn’t leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. 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.
“Republicans look forward to beating Senator Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don’t do it first.”
At ABC News, George Stephanopoulos is reporting that in a conversation this morning with President Barack Obama, Specter said, “I’m a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda.” Obama promised his “full support.”
The New York Times has just posted Specter’s complete statement. Here’s a taste:
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.
Moves like this rarely occur at the spur of the moment. Signs of premeditation include this article by Specter that just appeared at the New York Times Review of Books, on the Bush expansion of executive powers:
In the seven and a half years since September 11, the United States has witnessed one of the greatest expansions of executive authority in its history, at the expense of the constitutionally mandated separation of powers.
President Obama, as only the third sitting senator to be elected president in American history, and the first since John F. Kennedy, may be more likely to respect the separation of powers than President Bush was. But rather than put my faith in any president to restrain the executive branch, I intend to take several concrete steps, which I hope the new president will support.
First, I intend to introduce legislation that will mandate Supreme Court review of lower court decisions in suits brought by the ACLU and others that challenge the constitutionality of the warrantless wiretapping program authorized by President Bush after September 11.
While the Supreme Court generally exercises discretion on whether it will review a case, there are precedents for Congress to direct Supreme Court review on constitutional issues—including the statutes forbidding flag burning and requiring Congress to abide by federal employment laws—and I will follow those.
Second, I will reintroduce legislation to keep the courts open to suits filed against several major telephone companies that allegedly facilitated the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Although Congress granted immunity to the telephone companies in July 2008, this issue may yet be successfully revisited since the courts have not yet ruled on the legality of the immunity provision.
My legislation would substitute the government as defendant in place of the telephone companies. This would allow the cases to go forward, with the government footing the bill for any damages awarded.
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