Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the longest serving Senator in Pennsylvania history, has made some history today by switching from the Republican to the Democrat Party.
Specter’s switch will have policy ramifications for conservatives. As of today, 59 Senators caucus with the Democrats, including Specter, socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Independent Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman.
One Senate race is still in dispute, but comedian Al Franken seems to be close to securing the disputed Senate seat in Minnesota. If Franken is seated, then a caucus of Democrats would have 60 votes in the Senate.
This is important on policy grounds for a few reasons. One issue that will be dramatically affected is Health Care. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told CQ: “I think his decision is transformative. . . . This makes a very significant difference in the health care reform discussion.”
Wyden is correct. It will change the debate dramatically, because Senator Specter was one of the chief opponents of so called Hillary-Care during the Clinton Administration and now will be on the other side of the aisle for the debate on comprehensive health care reform. Democrats will have a 60 vote majority and will not have to negotiate with the minority party when crafting a package of health care reforms.
Judicial nominations are another issue that will be dramatically affected by the Specter decision. Senator Arlen Specter has always shown an independent streak on nominations. Specter supported Bush nominees Alito and Roberts, yet famously opposed Robert Bork, a Reagan nominee to the Supreme Court in 1987.
A 60 vote working majority for Democrats could change the calculations by the Obama Administration on who they nominate for any possible openings to the Supreme Court. If President Obama does not have to worry about a nominee being moderate enough to pass with Republican votes, the President can choose somebody to the extreme left like Harold Koh, current a nominee to be the Legal Counsel for the State Department, or Attorney General Eric Holder who has already come under fire for calling America a “nation of cowards.”
The bottom line is that the Specter decision may anger partisan Republicans and encourage partisan Dems, yet the policy ramifications for conservatives are real and something the American people should take a moment to consider.