Kent Hoover, Washington Bureau Chief of the Washington Business Journal – reports that the democrats are closer to having the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate now that Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has decided to switch parties.
“I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,” Specter said in a statement published Tuesday on Politico’s Web site. “I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”
Specter faced a strong challenge in the Republican primary from conservative Pat Toomey, a former House member.
“I am unwilling to have my 29-year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate,” the statement read. “I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.”
Specter said he knows he “will be disappointing many friends and supporters,” but he is “disappointed that so many in the party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate.”
Specter’s defection would leave Republicans with only 40 votes in the Senate. If Al Franken is seated as a senator from Minnesota, Democrats would reach the 60-vote threshold. This could enable them to overcome Republican efforts to block legislation.
Specter was one of only three Senate Republicans who supported the economic stimulus legislation. Democrats had hoped to win his support for the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would allow unions to organize workplaces by obtaining signed cards from a majority of employees instead of going through a secret-ballot election. But Specter announced earlier this year that he would oppose that bill, dealing a severe blow to that bill’s prospects.
It’s unclear how Specter’s party switch will affect his stance on this bill.