Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter made headlines earlier this week when he announced that he will shift his allegiance from the Republic Party that has been his home since he left the Democratic Party in 1965. He has been a Republican for his entire Senate career, dating back to 1980. As has been reported in many other places, this switch puts the Democrats at 59 in the Senate and if Al Franken wins out in the still-contested Minnesota contest, the Democrats will have a filibuster-proof majority of 60, thus controlling the executive and legislative branches of government.
My own political leanings aside, I rarely think that is a good idea. If the shoe was on the other foot and the Republicans controlled both branches, I would be equally outraged. Yes, the majority will allow the Democrats to push through legislation more easily, reverse policies of the Bush administration, and give President Obama an easier ride (at least until the next election). But our founding fathers set up the three branches of government for a reason: Checks and balances. When the same party controls two of those branches, that doesn’t leave much room for checks and balances.
In addition, this moves now leaves no Republican Jewish senators. In tomorrow’s editorial, editor Rebecca Boroson and associate editor Lois Goldrich talk about the importance of Jews being on all sides of the discussion in politics.
New Jersey’s men in Washington also weighed in on Specter’s move in statements e-mailed to the Standard on Tuesday.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg said:
Arlen Specter is a friend and colleague and I welcome him to the Democratic side of the aisle. New Jersey and Pennsylvania share not only a border, but also many common values and interests. I am confident that with Senator Specter joining us in the majority party in the Senate, our region will benefit greatly.
With a greater majority in the Senate, we now have a better chance of advancing our agenda of revitalizing the economy, providing Americans with affordable health care, improving transportation and lowering taxes on the middle class.
Americans want action, not obstruction. Senator Specter’s decision will help President Obama and the majority in Congress deliver the changes people are hoping for.
Sen. Bob Menendez wrote:
The extreme right wing lost the American people in 2006 and 2008. Now, they’ve lost their hold on another moderate voice in the United States Senate.
This one’s a game-changer. Specter’s move immediately improves the prospects of President Obama’s bold change agenda.
But make no mistake – Republicans still have the votes they need to mount a filibuster. Sen. Specter’s decision will make our opponents even more desperate.
Norm Coleman will dig in his heels and fight even harder to deny us that filibuster-proof 60th seat.
Even when Coleman finally, finally has no more appeals and is forced to concede defeat, the Republicans will be plotting day and night to defeat our candidates in 2010. They know that beating just one Democratic incumbent would let them filibuster, delay, and deny the President’s agenda.
Today is a great day for all of us who want to help bring real, lasting change to this country.
Of course, Menendez and Lautenberg are Democrats. The response to Specter’s decision from the other side was not as warm.
Guy Harrison, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee wrote:
Today, Senator Arlen Specter switched his party affiliation to the Democrat Party. I hope you will join me in saying “Good Riddance.”