Specter Was Critical of Jeffords’ Switch in 2001

Posted April 29, 2009 at 4:57pm

Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who shocked his GOP colleagues Tuesday by announcing his jump to the Democratic Party in advance of his re-election campaign next year, criticized then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) in 2001 for a similar move. Jeffords left the GOP to caucus with the Democrats, ending Republican control of an evenly divided chamber. In a floor speech following Jeffords’ announcement that is posted on Specter’s official Web site, the Pennsylvanian revealed that a group of six Senators had tried to dissuade Jeffords from leaving the Republican Conference by promising to waive the term limit on his chairmanship and seat at leadership meetings. But Jeffords bucked the overtures. “I was deeply disappointed by his announcement that he would organize with the Democrats,— Specter said in the May 14, 2001, floor speech. “My immediate response to the news media was that it felt as if there had been a death in the family. … Most of the Republican Senate caucus has had little to say, trying to put the best face on what is really a devastating loss.—It remains unclear when Specter will officially join with Democrats, although he said during a press conference Tuesday that he would keep his seniority status on all committees. A senior Senate Democratic source said Wednesday that Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would likely carve out a new subcommittee for Specter during this Congress. But such organization restructuring is exactly what Specter criticized during the Jeffords move, when he pledged to introduce a rule change barring party switches mid-Congress. “It is my view that the organizational vote belongs to the party which supported the election of a particular Senator,— said Specter, who also urged his Republican colleagues to consider “inducements as an incentive for a party switch.—President Barack Obama assured “full support— for Specter in next year’s Senate race, and Democratic leaders came out in support of their new colleague, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) welcoming him as a “moderate voice to our diverse caucus.—Specter’s move brings Democrats one step closer to a filibuster-proof majority. Now they just await a final decision in the Minnesota race, which is expected to yield another Democrat, Al Franken, and a 60-seat majority.