Specter Joins Democratic Party, Raises Prospects for President’s Agenda
On Tuesday, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) announced that he is leaving the Republican party to become a Democrat, a move that could have broad implications for the Obama administration's efforts on health care reform and other issues, Roll Call reports.
Specter would be the 59th Democrat in the Senate.
If Democrat Al Franken takes office as one of Minnesota's senators, the majority party would have 60 votes, positioning Democrats to block any Republican filibuster. Franken leads the race by 312 votes, but those results are being challenged in court (Palmer, Roll Call, 4/29).
In a statement, Specter said, "As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party." He also noted that he made the decision after learning from his pollster that he likely would lose the 2010 Republican primary election for his Senate seat (Retter, New York Post, 4/29).
When contacted by President Obama about his announcement, Specter told the president, "I'm a loyal Democrat," adding, "I support your agenda" (Weisman/Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 4/29). However, Specter said he would not become an "automatic" 60th vote to invoke cloture on Democrat-supported legislation, Politico reports (Rogers, Politico, 4/29).
The Wall Street Journal reports, "With his re-election looming, Mr. Specter will be under pressure to rally the support of Democrats," which "could mean he will have to hew closely to the president's wishes on areas such as retooling the health care system" (Wall Street Journal, 4/29).Specter is known to be a strong supporter of increased spending on medical research and related causes, according to the Washington Post (Kane et al., Washington Post, 4/29). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.