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Specter’s Not a Turncoat, He’s an Opportunistic Pasture Paddy

April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter announced today that he is changing his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic.  When he informed the President of his decision he told Obama, “I’m a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda.”   How could Specter be  a “loyal Democrat” when he had an “R” behind his name just five minutes earlier?

Interesting, isn’t it, that Arlen claimed to be a Republican until such time as being one meant he’d no longer be a Senator.   (After all, he hadn’t the proverbial snowball’s chance of winning next year’s Republican primary.)  So now he admits he’s not really a Republican after all.   That’s what every knowledgeable Pennsylvania Republican has been saying for a long time.

According to Human Events Specter voted against his party more than 50% of the time over the past 15 years!  Are you incredulous?  Look at this table from the Washington Post that details his record of siding with Democrats since 2008.

The news media are claiming this gives Specter a lock on the seat in the next election.  I wouldn’t be too sure.  Were I a Democratic primary challenger I’d constantly emphasize that Specter either sides with the opposition party (Republicans) 40% of the time and is not reliable, or he’s a lying opportunist who would do anything to retain his seat.  Neither should engender much confidence from the Democratic party faithful.

Update: Many are saying that the Specter ship-jumping is noteworthy because will give the Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 vote majority after Franken is seated.  Hogwash!  The three-fifths member requirement to invoke cloture is  a Senate rule.  And Senate rules are changeable by majority vote.  This is known as the constitutional option and was actually done in 1917 and 1975.  Details can be read in this Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy paper.

Although the Senate clearly intended to consider filibuster reform, any such effort faced the prospect of further filibustering. At the time, the Senate had no rule that would permit a majority to stop debate and force a vote on a rules change. It seemed that a willful few could block filibuster reform.

Senator Walsh, however, offered another option: the constitutional option. Walsh explained that under the U.S. Constitution, the Senate had the right to choose the rules governing its procedure by majority vote. A past Senate, he reasoned, could not take this right away from
succeeding Senates by passing debate rules that, in practice, prevented a new Senate from choosing its own rules by majority vote.

Walsh proposed that the Senate, acting under the rights granted by the Constitution, formally re-adopt all of the previous Senate’s Standing Rules except for Rule XXII, which governed the procedure of motions. Walsh proposed that the Senate then adopt an amended version of Rule XXII that included a [revised] procedure for cloture of debate.

So I ask — does anyone really believe Obama and the Democrats would have allowed Senate rules to get in the way of  establishing a European-style social democracy?  I think not.  Absent a Franken win and Specter abandonment of the Republicans they’d simply have made whatever changes were necessary to force their vision on us all.

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