In what has been described as a "seismic shift" and a reflection on the right-ward march of the Republican Party, moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) announces he will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, the Huffington Post reports.
"'I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,' said Specter in a statement. '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.'"
"The move will give Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 vote majority in the Senate, presuming Minnesota's Al Franken is eventually seated. However, in his statement Specter said his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act—widely seen as a defense against a Republican primary challenge—will not change."
Specter supported the labor bill but (unfortunately) switched to be competitive in the Republican primary. Rasmussen has former Rep. Pat Toomey beating the Senator by 21 points in the GOP primary. As far as the 60-vote number, eh. There is always a Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln or Evan Bayh ready, willing and able to vote with the Republicans.
Specter is decent on LGBT issues. The Pennsylvania senator has a 70 percent rating (PDF) from the Human Rights Campaign for the 110th Congress. Specter was one of the original Senate co-sponsors of ENDA and co-sponsors the hate crimes bill. In contrast, Bob Casey, the Democratic junior Senator from Pennsylvania, has a 100 percent rating.
Think Progress reports Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said that he, Sen. Bob Casey, and Vice President Biden had been lobbying Specter to switch.