Senator Arlen Spector is crossing over to the Democratic Party. This changes our political landscape as if an earthquake occurred. With the potential Senator Frankel (Minnesota) whose case looks about won - this should make the 60 total, so that Democrats can override a Republican filibuster.
Having Spector as a Democrat will make the DREAM Act possible, count on it. While Spector voted against the DREAM Act in 2007 (he said it would make Comprehensive Immigration Reform more difficult to obtain), he was fully supportive when the bill was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2006. He was Chair of the committee at the time.
London Guardian, April 28, 2009One of the few remaining moderate Republicans in the United States Senate defected to the Democrats today, dealing a massive blow to the Republican party's ability to impede Barack Obama's legislative agenda, and opening the way for dramatic action on climate change, healthcare reform and other issues.The defection by Arlen Specter, a veteran Pennsylvania Republican, puts the majority Democratic party closer to the 60 votes needed to pass most substantive legislation. All that remains for the party to achieve that margin, and with it, the ability to run roughshod over the Republicans, is the final confirmation in Minnesota of Al Franken's victory in a long-disputed Senate election.Specter's switch comes as the national Republican party has struggled to find its voice and its policy foundation since Obama's election in November, and illustrates the party's decline since George Bush's 2004 re-election, when it controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.Following the debacle over hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Bush's mismanagement of the war in Iraq, voters across the country turned on the party in the 2006 election, giving the Democrats control of the House and Senate. Since then, the Republican party's conservative base has consolidated its hold, driving moderate voices from the party and pushing centrist voters toward the Democrats. In November, the Democrats won the White House and both chambers of Congress for the first time since 1994.In a candid press conference, Specter, 79, lambasted conservative groups he said are willing to lose elections in order to "purify the party" by backing right-wing candidates."The Republican party has moved farther and farther to the right," he said. "I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic party."Obama welcomed the move and told him the Democrats were "thrilled to have you".Republican national committee chairman Michael Steele said some Republicans would be happy to see him go. "Let's be honest: Senator Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind," he said. "He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his leftwing voting record. Republicans look forward to beating Senator Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don't do it first."In addition to giving the Democrats their strongest Senate majority since 1979, Specter's move greatly increases his chances of winning re-election next year to his sixth term. Specter faced an extraordinarily tough primary challenge from former congressman Pat Toomey, a conservative whom he narrowly defeated in the 2004 primary. Had he been able to beat Toomey, he would then have faced a challenge on the left from the Democratic party.Specter today acknowledged the calculation encouraged his defection."I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," he said.In Minnesota, the comedian and author Franken cannot be seated in the Senate until former Republican senator Norm Coleman concedes or until his legal challenges are exhausted. Assuming Franken is ultimately confirmed, the Republicans will be hard-pressed to hinder Obama's agenda, including provisions to lessen greenhouse gas emissions, expand government health insurance programmes, his $3.7tn budget, his judicial nominations, and potentially more costly fiscal stimulus measures.Specter, who was first elected in 1980, was one of only three Republicans to vote for Obama's $787bn fiscal stimulus package this winter, alongside two moderate Republicans from Maine. He was widely derided for what fellow Republicans deemed a betrayal.The Senate's procedural rules mean that while the Democrats held a majority, they still had to court moderates in order to win tough legislative fights. A minority can filibuster legislation, preventing bills from reaching a vote, and 60 votes are needed to cut off debate on and force an up-or-down roll call.Specter's switch does not necessarily mean that Congress will grant Obama whatever he wishes. Conservative Democrats in the Senate will now see their hands strengthened and may seek concessions in exchange for votes, and Specter today insisted he would not be "an automatic 60th vote"."If the Democratic party asks too much, I will not hesitate to disagree and vote my independent thinking," he said. link
also see "What Kind of Democrat Will Spector Be?" New York Times, April 28, 2009