VETERAN US Republican Senator Arlen Specter plans to switch parties, a move intended to boost his chances of re-election next year that also will push Democrats within one seat of a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority.
“I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,” Specter said.
President Barack Obama called Specter almost immediately after he was informed of the decision to say the Democratic Party was “thrilled to have you,” according to a White House official. Republicans said his defection was motivated by ambition, not principle.
Specter, 79 and in his fifth term, is one of a handful of Republican moderates remaining in Congress in a party now dominated by conservatives.
Several officials said secret talks that preceded his decision reached into the White House, involving both Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.
With the Pennsylvania senator, Democrats would have 59 seats. Al Franken is ahead in a marathon recount in Minnesota, and if he wins his race, he would become the Democrats’ 60th vote, the number needed to overcome a filibuster.
Specter has long been an independent Republican — he was one of only three members of the party to vote for Obama’s economic stimulus legislation.
In recent years, he has battled Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, but maintains a busy schedule that includes daily games of squash.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved